Tips for Weight Loss and Maintenance: Portion Control

If you’re trying to lose weight, portion control is a key component for shedding pounds or inches and keeping them off. While many people think they can drop a few sizes simply by hitting the gym, that isn’t the case. In fact, weight loss is 75% about your diet and only 25% about your exercise habits. With the holiday season approaching (which often comes with overindulging from parties, visiting family, and lots of sweet treats), this is a good time to become aware of what and how much you should be eating.   


Weigh and measure.

If you try to guess what a cup of cereal or a ¼ cup of almonds looks like, you’ll probably overestimate 90% of the time, meaning you’ll consume more food than you actually need. We recognize that this isn’t always possible, but when you’re at home, break out the measuring cups and food scale! You’ll need to check each food item’s package or use an online resource to find the appropriate serving size. Weighing and measuring your food is the best way to ensure portion control.

Use visual clues.

There are instances in which it simply isn’t appropriate for you to weigh or measure your food, like when you’re out to eat or having a meal with a client. Please don’t start keeping a food scale in your purse or a set of measuring cups on your key ring.
When you can’t weigh and measure, use visual clues instead. For example:

  • getty_rm_photo_of_portion_size_measurements3 ounces of meat is the size of one deck of cards.
  • ½ cup of cooked pasta is the size of  hockey puck.
  • 1 serving of fruit is the size of a tennis ball.
  • 1 serving of vegetables is the size of your fist or a baseball.
  • 1 serving of cheese (2 ounces) is the size of 3 dice.
  • 6 ounces of a beverage would fill a teacup.
  • ¼ cup of almonds is the size of a medium egg.

The list can go on and on. If there are foods you typically eat, use online resources to get a visual idea of what a portion size should look like. This will help you stay on track, even when you can’t measure.  

Plan your meals and portions.

Because it’s a popular and important topic, you probably already know the importance of meal planning; however, you may not know the importance of portion planning. For example, if you’re cooking for two but using a recipe that makes four servings, it can be easy to overindulge. Before you serve the meal, put two of the servings in containers. You can use these other servings for lunch or dinner the next day and avoid the temptation of simply eating it all.

When you’re eating out, it’s also important to portion plan. For example, if you order a six ounce steak, ask your server to box up half the meal before your food even comes to the table.

Portion-controlUse portion-control plates.

Big plates make us feel like we can and should eat more. Think about the sizes of plates at restaurants. To combat this issue, you have two options: use smaller plates or plates with divisions. With proper portion sizes in mind, plan to fill ½ of your plate with vegetables, a ¼ with starch, and a ¼ with protein. Because people are visual by nature, portion-control plates are very helpful.   

How much should you be eating?

All of these tips sound easy enough; however, they are useless unless you know how many portions of each food group you should be eating. Please keep in mind that everyone’s dietary needs are different, and the Lafayette Family YMCA highly suggests that you talk to your doctor or nutritionist. That said, we’re happy to give you some general ideas.


The average woman needs approximately 1,600 calories a day. Her diet should look something like this:

  • 6 servings of grains per day
  • 3 servings of vegetables per day
  • 2 servings of fruit per day
  • 2-3 servings of dairy per day
  • 2 servings of lean meats, poultry, or seafood per day
  • 2 servings of fats and oils per day
  • 3-4 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes per week
  • 0 to few servings of sweets and added sugars per week


The average man needs approximately 2,200 calories a day. His diet should look something like this:

  • 9 servings of grains per day
  • 4 servings of vegetables per day
  • 3 servings of fruit per day
  • 2-3 servings of dairy per day
  • 2 servings of lean meats, poultry, or seafood per day
  • 2-3 servings of fats and oils per day
  • 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes per week
  • 5 or fewer servings of sweets and added sugars per week


Exercise and diet are both part of losing and maintaining your body weight and living a happy and healthy life. Although we are a gym, the Lafayette Family YMCA is committed to healthy living, which is about more than exercise. We’re a community working together to create a healthy Greater Lafayette. Try these tips, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact or stop by your Lafayette Family YMCA!


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