Use Your Plate as Your Portion Guide

We’re living in a world with a variety of cultures and customs, where food is an important part of each culture. Your childhood memories of family gatherings and your culture’s customs likely shaped your food habits: what you ate, how much you ate, when you ate. These habits and patterns may have continued into your adult years.


If you’ve travelled outside of your home country, you’ve experienced the food habits and patterns of those living in other countries and likely noticed differences in their portion sizes, especially the portion sizes in restaurants. A portion size is the amount of food you choose to eat in one sitting. Your portion size may be different from the serving size, a standardized amount of food listed on a nutrition label.


An important step in maintaining a healthy weight is to increase your awareness of the quantity and quality of the foods you consume daily. Read nutrition labels. Observe your own food patterns and habits. When and how many times do you usually eat throughout the day? What do you eat? How much do you eat? Do you eat less or more when you’re experiencing certain emotions?


When you visit your local grocery store, scan the items in the different sections of the store. You will likely notice that processed and packaged foods have nutrition labels while whole foods do not. Whole foods are foods that have little to no processing or refining before consumption. Some examples of whole foods are legumes, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and tubers. Whenever possible, choose whole foods rather than processed or packaged foods.


You can also re-assess your portion sizes by reframing the way in which you think about the components of your meal. If you’re a carnivore, have you ever said, “We’re having chicken tonight” or “We’re having steak tonight”? Chicken and steak are two sources of protein. Often, protein is the star of the meal and the other components, like salad, are the supporting act. This pattern is also seen in meals served at restaurants and is reflected in the corresponding portion size of each meal component. What happens if you make vegetables the star of the meal and meat, or your choice of protein, the supporting act? How will this change your portion sizes? Try this at your next meal: take your plate and fill ½ of the plate with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of the plate with your protein of choice, and the remaining ¼ of the plate with starchy carbohydrates. Some examples of starchy carbohydrates include potatoes, rice, pasta, cereals, and breads.


As you become more aware of the quantity and quality of foods you consume, you will be in a better position to make healthier choices that support your long-term health goals. How has an increased awareness changed your outlook and food choices?


Demi Dee is a certified Canadian fitness trainer and holistic health coach, and the Founder and CEO of The Knockout Room®. Demi is the creator of The Knockout Protocol: Raising Your Superhero Tween to Look and Feel Her Best, her signature health program for moms and their tween girls.