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Future Health

The Power of Portion Size

January 30, 2017 

Sometimes it’s not what we put on our plate but what we leave off that can make all the difference when trying to improve quality of life and long-term health outcomes. In this case we don’t mean what type of food but how much.


One thing that we have learned from studying the differences among human cultures and their changes over time is that those who practice eating small portions tend to have fewer health problems as they age.


One of the largest changes in American culture has been the increase in portion sizes. And while Americans may always have taken comfort from food, today we have taken that to new heights, resulting in unhealthy habits around eating.


Some of the reasons that Americans eat more food at each meal include:

  • Larger serving sizes at restaurants
  • Increased daily stress
  • Less leisure time
  • More prepared foods
  • Greater availability of inexpensive, processed foods that tend to be high in calories


The benefits of portion control include:

  • More efficient digestion
  • Reduction in inflammation of the gut
  • Fewer overall calories leading to healthier body weight
  • Insulin and other hormone balance
  • Spending less money on food


It is important to understand the difference between a serving size indicated on food labels and a healthy portion for you, which may be more or less than the serving size listed. Rather than spend the time to determine how much of the food you need for your meal based on the nutrition information on the package, researchers found that a simpler method worked just as effectively. That method is to fill half of your plate with vegetables, then add one palm-sized serving of lean protein and one serving of another carbohydrate of your choice. If you follow this method, you can include the foods you love in your diet while still reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease.


Restaurants portions tend to be more generous than an optimally healthy portion, and people often find it is difficult to find a balance. One way to continue healthy practices while enjoying eating out is to eat two-thirds of your meal and box up the rest to bring home. You’ll have a lunch ready for the next day and save money.