Portion Distortion

When making changes to your diet, it is important to look at the amount of food you are eating. Many of us are so accustomed to the large portion sizes served both at home and when dining out. Better control of your portions doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some simple visuals and tips that can help ensure you are not eating too much.

Find Out How Much You’re Eating With a Visual

Simple objects can help you figure out how much of a particular food you have on your plate. Use the table below to gain a better understanding of what some common portion sizes look like:

Avoid Eating Straight Out of the Container

Remove the portion you'd like to eat from a box or bag of food. This way, you won’t be tempted to continue eating your snack or food item after you’ve already had your portion. You can even try pre-portioning single servings of food into smaller containers. If you find yourself in a pinch, your portioned foods will be ready to go!

Serve Foods in the Kitchen Instead of at the Table

You can decrease the temptation to take extra servings if the dish holding more food is in a different room. If you are still hungry after you’ve finished your plate, go for the vegetables or salad rather than meat or grains. And if you’re at a party or buffet where this isn’t an option, seat yourself far away from the food and use a smaller plate (such as a salad plate) rather than a larger main-course plate.

Practice Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a proven way to follow healthier eating habits and stick to healthier portion sizes. This means paying attention to what you’re eating and eliminating distractions. Consider putting your fork down and notice the different colors, smells, sounds, textures and flavors in your foods. Turn off the TV during meals and make the dinner table a ‘no-phone-zone.’ Take the time to pause, taste, and enjoy your food. It can help you feel satisfied and gain control.

What About Dining Out?

Many restaurants offer meals that are much larger than the recommended portion size for an individual. You can have more control over how much you are getting on your plate at these times by splitting a meal with a friend. Or order a to-go box with your meal and put half the meal away before you start eating.

Key Takeaways

  1. Use simple objects as a visual guide to help you gauge food portion size.

  2. You can use physical cues like pre-portioning foods and serving foods from the kitchen instead of at the table to make you more mindful of how much you are eating. Eliminating distractions while eating (like TV and your phone) while eating can help, too.

  3. Put half of your large restaurant portion into a to-go container before eating so you are less tempted to overeat.


  1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2018) Serving Size vs Portion Size Is There a Difference. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/nutrition-facts-and-food-labels/serving-size-vs-portion-size-is-there-a-difference

  2. Pintado-Cucarella S, Rodriguez-Salgado P. (2016) Journal of Behavior, Health & Social Issues. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbhsi.2016.11.003

  3. Bjarnadottir, A. (2019) Mindful Eating 101 - A Beginner’s Guide. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mindful-eating-guide