Reducing your food intake or choosing healthier options isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Many factors, such as the setting in which you eat, the quantity of food served, and how hungry you feel, can influence what and how much you consume. The good news is that you can take control of many of these factors.
You can start by consciously focusing on them until they become routine.
Here are nine effective strategies that can help you eat less and manage your calorie intake. As you practice these techniques, they will become more natural, and your weight loss journey will be more successful.
1. Take time to enjoy your meal
There is truth in the benefit of slowing down and appreciating the world around you, food included.
Focusing on every bite can help you practice mindful eating, which has been shown to cut down on calorie intake.
Slowing down between bites allows you to recognize your feelings of hunger and satiety so you have a chance to realize when you’ve had enough—then stop before you clean your plate and later regret it.
Eating at a relaxed pace also means you’ll chew your food more thoroughly, thus experiencing fewer digestive issues and less intestinal upset.
This may take some practice.
The hustle and bustle of daily life often catches up with us and sometimes it takes a conscious effort to take it easy and give your brain a chance to enjoy the food and tell you when you’re full.
Aim to spend about 20 minutes for each meal.
2. Use smaller plates, cups and bowls
Your eyes really can be bigger than your stomach.
Research has shown that when people use large bowls, plates and serving utensils, they serve themselves more and consume more food. Eat from smaller salad plates and small bowls for daily use.
Without even realizing it, you’ll serve and eat less. I
f your dinnerware is oversized, it might be time for new dishes that won’t dwarf your properly portioned meals.
3. Pre-portion your foods
Grab your measuring cups and a small bowl to keep your calories in check.
Why? Because it’s easy to overeat when you’re reaching into a bottomless bag of food. Instead of reaching into the chip bag or a big bowl of chips at a party, pre-portion your snacks into a smaller container (or plate) so you know exactly how much you’re eating.
Then, put the big bag away (or walk away from the chip bowl).
You are much less likely to overeat enjoy the smaller portion you served yourself. So dish it up, put the rest away, and taste every bite.
4. Know your weaknesses
We all have food weaknesses. That food that you can’t resist.
The food you can’t stop eating once you started. The food you have trouble saying no to, even if you’re not hungry.
The food you think about even when it’s not in the vicinity. Maybe you’ll never shake the grip this food has you on, but the first step is recognizing it.
Take a minute to think about your food weaknesses.
Once you know what they are, you can take extra measures to prevent overeating these particular foods, whether you avoid repeated exposure to this food or plan the rest of your day’s intake planning to enjoy a bit of this favorite food.
5. Keep a food journal
Keeping a food diary is the best weight-loss tool. One recent study found that dieters who kept track of their food lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t.
Writing down what you eat will encourage you to think about your food choices all day, and consider what you’ve already eaten and what you plan to eat later.
This means you’ll make conscious choices more often and usually curb your calorie intake as a result.
6. Eat the right portions
Most meals we eat at home or in restaurants are proportioned backwards: big portions of meat and carbs and very few (if any) vegetables.
If your plates put veggies in a supporting role, you’re probably consuming too many calories and hurting your weight-loss efforts. Using a perfectly portioned plate can help!
What you want to do is fill half your plate with disease-fighting vegetables, a quarter with lean protein and a quarter with your whole grains.
7. Pack in the protein
Studies show that protein plays a key role in regulating food intake and appetite; people who consistently consume protein regain less weight after a significant weight loss, too.
Protein helps increase feelings of fullness because it takes longer to digest. When you skip protein in your meals and snacks, those pesky hunger pangs might encourage overeating!
So get into the habit of consuming protein at each meal and snack. Stick to lean sources of protein: Beans, hummus, egg whites, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products (cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese, and milk) can all give you muscle-building proteins without added fat.
8. Take half your meals to go
Portions served at most restaurants set you up for overeating. A full meal can contain more than 1,200 calories at some eateries, and that’s before dessert.
Even if you have the best intentions to eat only half of your meal when it arrives, it can be hard to stop or know when you’ve reached the halfway point—especially if you’re distracted while talking with friends and family.
Ask your server to pack up half of your meal before it hits the table.
That way, you’ll stop when you’re halfway done and still have leftovers for tomorrow.
It works because it’s a clear “stop sign” in your meal and most people aren’t likely to dig into their doggy bag or take-out box before leaving the restaurant.
9. Eat breakfast
People say breakfast is the most important meal of the day for good reason.
Studies show that people who eat breakfast have a lower BMI (body mass index) and consume fewer total calories each day than people who skip breakfast altogether.
A common explanation is that eating breakfast allows a person to feel less hungry throughout the day. Another is that those who skip breakfast allow for “extra calories” later in the day because they skipped a meal, but in reality end up overshooting their energy goal.
Whatever the reason, eating breakfast IS part of a healthy lifestyle and an important factor in healthy weight maintenance.