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AICR HealthTalk

Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q:       I think that my portions have gotten too large, but I’m having trouble getting back to “normal” portions.  What do you suggest?

A:       If you are the cook and find that there is always more food than you need, try cutting back on the amount you fix. You’ll save money and face less temptation to overeat. However, if you want extra to take for lunch or freeze for a future meal, dish out what you intend for future use into storage containers at the same time you are serving onto plates. If you currently put serving bowls on the table, consider keeping food off the table, so you have to get up to get a second portion. Simply not having a bowl of food right in front of you is often enough to help you avoid overeating. Alternatively, some people put only a serving bowl of vegetables or salad on the table to encourage eating more of these foods.

If your portion of meat or poultry is larger than a deck of cards, or your portion of a grain (pasta, rice) or potato is larger than your fist, try serving yourself about three-quarters of your usual amount. Studies suggest that we are often satisfied with less than we think we need. Some people find that if they fill half their plates with vegetables or salad first, it’s easier to take smaller portions of everything else. Using smaller plates can also help, because your plate will be as full as usual with smaller amounts. Allow for the possibility of going back for seconds if you are hungry, but wait just a few minutes, and you may be surprised at how often that perceived need for more passes quickly away. If your overeating occurs as you linger at the table, plan ahead for some fruit or a cup of coffee or tea to enjoy at meal’s end. Or if eating as you linger is a way of putting off some chore you don’t want to do, instead plan something you look forward to doing right after the meal. With all these strategies, avoid a “food police” restrictive outlook; focus on how it feels to eat a portion that leaves you satisfied, but not stuffed.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, https://www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

Published on 10/27/2014

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