Open Accessibility Menu

Are your eyes bigger than your stomach?

Published in Weight Management, For the Health of It Author: Diane Giambruno, Registered Dietitian

I once had a patient tell me that she wanted to surprise her family for Christmas dinner by using her grandmother’s china. The sentimental effort backfired. In her grandmother’s day, plates were much smaller, a dinner plate being more the size of today’s “salad” plate. Her family members complained they couldn’t get all of the food they wanted on the plate! Everything from plates to drinking glasses has increased in size, making it a challenge to control our portions.

How much is too much?

During infancy, the human body instinctively knows to stop eating when it is full despite the amount of food offered; however, at as young as two years of age, we begin to be affected by portion sizes.

Research has shown that we unintentionally eat more when we are given larger portions for snacks and meals. Restaurant portions and food packaging have grown significantly in recent years, distorting our judgment of appropriate serving sizes. Being faced with larger portions, especially when eating high-calorie foods, can lead to a considerable excess in your daily caloric intake.

Avoid common food portion pitfalls by following these tips:

  • Familiarize yourself with healthy serving sizes. Visual examples can be helpful when determining an appropriate serving size; for example, a serving of cereal or pasta (½ cup) should be the size of a hockey puck, a serving of fish (3 ounces) should be the size of a deck of cards, and a serving of butter (1 teaspoon) should be the size of the tip of your thumb.
  • When serving dinner at home, keep serving dishes off of the table. Serve food directly onto individual plates and leave any extra in the kitchen to avoid the temptation of going for seconds.
  • Instead of eating snacks right from the box, put an appropriate serving size in a bowl and put the box away to avoid “grazing.”
  • Buy single-serving treats for easy, no-stress snacks.
  • Forget about spoiling your dinner; eating small, healthy snacks throughout the day as you get hungry will help keep you from overeating at mealtimes.
  • Separate the contents of large packages of food into several smaller bags or containers to create convenient, ready-to-go snacks and avoid accidental overeating.
  • When buying in bulk, store what you don’t need right away somewhere harder to get to. If it isn’t within easy reach, you will be less likely to grab for it.
  • Keep any especially tempting or unhealthy foods out of sight, storing more healthy options in front at eye level.
  • Restaurant portions are particularly large. When eating out, try splitting a meal with a friend or asking for a to-go box right away so that you can immediately box up half of your meal to eat later. Many restaurants also offer light or lunch menus with more appropriate serving sizes.
  • Slow down! While you are eating, pay attention to the color, scent, taste, and texture of each dish, and take the time to stop between bites to talk with friends or family. When you eat slowly, your body will be better able to recognize when it is full, and you will be able to fully appreciate what you are eating.

For more tips to keep your portions in control, visit