The holidays are here, and with it, an influx of social invitations for parties, dinners, and other food-filled festivities. Although there’s nothing wrong with a few nights of celebration, sometimes it can start to feel like a handful of hearty dinners evolves into a months-long affair of indulgence.
Thankfully, the answer is not to decline those social invites. We’ve pulled together a few tried and true portion control hacks that can help you achieve that just-right feeling of fullness without missing out on your favorite holiday foods.
1. Pick Small Plates and Utensils
You can encourage yourself to stick to a smaller portion by serving your food onto a small plate. Small plates help make portions look more substantial, whereas large plates often translate into larger portion sizes. You can take this hack a step further and eat with smaller utensils, such as a teaspoon or a salad fork, to divide up your meal into more bites.
2. Choose Colors that Contrast
When your food is the same color as your plate (for instance, mashed potatoes on a white plate), they can create an optical illusion called the Delboeuf effect. Your eyes may have a hard time judging the portion size, and you may serve a larger portion without realizing it. Choosing a plate that contrasts your food can help prevent this.
If you have a red plate lying around, it may also come in handy as a portion-control tool. Several studies, including one by University of Parma in Italy, found that participants ate less off of red plates than other colors. One possible explanation is that red is associated with warnings (stop signs, traffic lights, etc.) and can prompt you to pay more attention to your portions.
3. Hydrate Yourself
Before you start your meal, drink a tall glass of water. Sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger, partly because they can lead to similar feelings of sluggishness and headaches.
During your meal, remember to take a few sips between bites. Not only will this help you stay hydrated, but you’ll allow more time for the body’s fullness signals to work their magic.
4. Keep Food on the Counter
Instead of setting the table with all the prepared dishes, keep them on the counter. This way, you’ll have to get up for a second helping and be less likely to have extra bites when you’re already full.
5. Eat Protein and Veggies First
Protein is thought to promote satiety, the feeling of satisfaction you get after a meal. Non-starchy veggies, such as Brussels sprouts and green beans, tend to be lower in calories than starchy foods, making them a good choice to fill up on. Experiment with eating your protein and veggies first to see if you feel satisfied with your meal sooner.
6. Turn off the Screens
This technique is one way to help prevent mindless eating. When you eat while distracted, you may be more likely to eat a larger portion. Turning off the screens will encourage you to appreciate your food more, and in turn, eat just enough to feel satisfied.