Too Many Holiday Meals? Follow These 9 Tips To Control Your Portions

Dec 21, 2016

Most people go into a cycle every year. It starts with gaining weight during the “Ber Months” and then planning to lose the holiday weight starting January.

Then those who have summer plans will try to get in shape - or have billboard abs - by April or May. After these beach outings, they would be more lenient with their lifestyle until the holiday season. Year after year, the cycle repeats itself.

Does this sound familiar to you?

If it is, you don’t have to wait until new year to break the cycle. It is the season for parties and celebrations but we can still enjoy good food while being fair to our bodies.

You don’t have to restrict yourself from eating certain foods because no single food item can make you fat. It is best to watch the total calories you eat per day and remember to eat in moderate amounts.

Instead of skipping meals or parties, learn how to control your food portions. This helps you stay in shape without missing out on the holiday food and atmosphere.

To help you make it through this holiday season here are 9 dining tips you can follow.

1. Estimate food portions using your hand

Unless you are into bodybuilding or if you have a really strict diet due to a medical condition, actual weighing of all the food you eat would be a hassle. Doing this when you dine out is much more difficult, and considering it during the holidays is nearly impossible.

You need to have a more convenient way of approximating your food portions. You can do this by using your hand as a reference of how much you should be eating.

The size of your hand is relative to your body size. Larger hands mean you have a larger body with greater energy needs; hence, your portions should be larger than those of a smaller person.

Portion each meal so that your vegetables are visually equivalent to 2 fists. Include 1 fist equivalent of starch such as rice, potatoes, or spaghetti, and 1 palm-size of meat.

2. If you eat a whole pack of food, multiply calories per serving by number of servings on the label

The serving size of food printed on its label is suggested by the company that sells it. Portion size differs from person to person as it is the amount of a certain food that you can or will eat.

For example, a 184 gram pack of potato chips might say that it is a pack of 7 servings; It suggests a serving size of 28 grams or about 11 chips that contains a total 160 calories. But we know that some people can finish this whole bag in just one sitting.

This means that their portion size is 184 grams of chips. If you eat that much then you should know that you are eating a total of 960 calories. That’s about half of the average person’s daily energy needs!

How can you tell that a serving or portion size is too much?

Keep in mind that any 100 calories is equivalent to a half cup serving of rice. So if you think it won’t be very appealing for you to eat 5 cups of rice at one sitting, then maybe you shouldn’t overindulge in that pack of chips as well.

3. Learn to love vegetables and whole grain foods

Foods rich in fiber such as vegetables and whole grains should be included in every meal. They don’t only contain high amounts of nutrients. They also make you feel full easily as they absorb water once in the stomach, adding bulk.

Vegetables are also very low in calories - unless you smother your salad in high fat dressing. You would have consumed 10 cups of mixed green salad and the calories in it would be equivalent to just about a half cup of rice - 100 calories.

If you’re a bit of a social butterfly and you’d have to attend - and eat at - lots of events this season, the trick is to take advantage of the salad bar. Have 2-3 cups of vegetables before the main course and you’d find yourself safe from overindulging at the event.

4. When eating out, take half of your meal to go

Growing up, some of us must have been told to finish everything that’s on our plates. And that is to teach us thrift and to not be wasteful with food. It’s good too because children need more energy while they develop.

However when we grew up, we find that solo food servings could be really large and finishing the whole plate could be eating more than what we need.

Instead, bring your own reusable food container and request to be served just half of your order on the plate. You can take half of the meal to go and save it for a later meal.

5. Plan your meals - include parties and dining out

Planning the meals that you will have at home goes a long way towards promoting discipline in your lifestyle as you exercise control in choosing and preparing your food.

However, since it is the holidays, you would definitely have a lot of get-togethers and parties. 

Wouldn’t it be a good idea to plan them out and as much as possible, schedule them so that no two events would be too close to each other?

If you plan all your meetings, then you’ll be able to avoid snacks and meals that are too close to each other. 

For example, if you have a date with friends at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, it would be smart to skip your usual 3 o’clock afternoon snack to avoid extra calories that day.

6. Use smaller dishes whenever possible

If you have a larger plate, you’re more likely to add more food than you normally finish but if you use a smaller plate, you’ll take less food because it creates the appearance that the serving looks larger than it actually is.

This is especially helpful when you’re at a buffet and it’s time to select a dessert. A smaller dessert plate will help you control how much sweets you bring back to the table.

Smaller flatware would also limit the amount of food you eat by the bite. This makes you eat slower and can lessen the probability that you feel the need for second or more helpings.

7. Take your portion out before you eat

Lots of delicious treats come our way during the holidays. People will be sending you anything from sugar cookies and caramel popcorn to rum cakes and chocolate-covered nuts. These will also come in very enticing packages.

Since these are very easy to snack on, having the whole package with you while you eat is a very bad idea because before you know it you’ll have eaten more than halfway through the jar of chocolate chip cookies.

When you snack, just take the portion that you decide to eat, such as a handful, then store the rest of the treats properly. Don’t leave them on the table where they’ll be available to you after you finish your initial serving.

8. Check what’s available before serving yourself

When helping yourself to a meal, have a look at everything that’s available so you know which items you really want on your plate. This way you’ll be able to evaluate everything based on your preferences and based on what’s good for your health.

Studies have shown that 75% of diners take the most food from the nearest tray, filling ? of it and leaving the rest of the space to fit in other food.

Even if you are the type to try all available food in a buffet, at least knowing how many items there are helps a lot. 

9. Take time to appreciate your food

Have you ever sat down in front of the television while eating and found that you’re food is gone but you’re still not satisfied? 

This is called distracted eating or not paying attention to your food while eating. It contributes to weight gain as you tend to eat more during the meal and have more snacks after. 

Paying attention to your meal makes you eat less later on. Your psychological engagement to the act of eating - seeing, feeling, smelling, and tasting - your food satisfies your appetite and convinces your mind that you are, indeed, full.

When attending parties and it’s meal time, focus on eating. If conversation cannot be avoided, segway the conversation towards the food and its different aspects, then you can ease into continuing with your usual conversations after the course.


The holiday season doesn’t need to be a time where we start a cycle that leads us to more weight gain. We can enjoy ourselves with food and laughter as long as we know how to keep things in moderations amidst all of the parties.

Simple strategies such as having convenient references for portion sizes, planning your meals, and paying attention while you eat are very easy to develop into habits.



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