To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume, which inevitably means one thing: portion control. But you're not necessarily doomed to a growling stomach until you reach your goal. "Portion control doesn't mean you have to eat tiny portions of everything," says Lisa Young, PhD, RD, author of The Portion Teller Plan: The No-Diet Reality Guide to Eating, Cheating, and Losing Weight Permanently. "You don't want to feel like you're on a diet, but you have to eat fewer calories."
Here are 7 easy ways to cut portions, trim calories, and lose fat without counting the minutes until your next meal.
Health.com: 16 Ways to Lose Weight Fast
Start with a glass of H2O
Drink 16 ounces (a big glass) of water before you eat, suggests Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet. Filling your belly with water will naturally make you less likely to overeat, she says. Plus, some symptoms of dehydration may actually be what's causing your rumbling belly, so sipping some water before you eat may eliminate your "hunger" altogether.
Wear form-fitting clothes
We're not suggesting you squeeze into pants that are too tight. However, wearing an outfit with a waistband or perhaps a jacket with buttons can serve as a tool to prompt you to slow down and assess how you feel during your meal, says Young. As your clothing begins to feel a little snugger, it may keep you from going back for seconds.
Add veggie fillers
Bulking up your meals with veggies is one easy way to cut calories while filling you up fast. Spinach, for example, can be used as a sandwich-topper or can add fiber and nutrients to pasta and stir-fries, says Blatner. Other ideas to eat more veggies: swap in mushrooms for half the ground meat in most recipes, make oatmeal more filling with diced apples, and use a whole-wheat pita in place of bread so you can stuff it with more veggies.
Health.com: 10 Ways Your Personality Affects Your Weight
Dine on dinnerware that helps you lose
The color of your plate may influence how much you eat, according to a 2012 Cornell University study. The researchers discovered that when a plate and the food on it had a low color-contrast (like pasta with Alfredo sauce on a white plate), people at a buffet served themselves 22% more than when there was a higher color-contrast (like pasta with red sauce on a white plate or pasta with Alfredo sauce on a red plate). The study conclusions suggest that if you want to eat less, select plates that have a color-contrast to the food you're eating for dinner. Or if you want to eat more healthy foods, like a bigger salad, eat greens from a large green plate or bowl!
Make carbs the topper instead of the base
Rethink the way you use grains and starches. Take a breakfast parfait, for instance: instead of starting with a granola base, fill your cup with yogurt and then sprinkle just a tiny amount of granola on top for the crunch you crave. Making a stir-fry? Load up your plate with veggies and a serving of lean protein, then add a quarter cup of brown rice.
Set the scene for slower eating
Dim lights and listen to relaxing music to set the tone for a more leisurely meal, suggests Blatner. "Taking your time while eating increases enjoyment and decreases portions," she says. Remember to chew slowly, put down your fork between bites, and sip water to make your meal last longer.
Health.com: 25 Ways to Cut 500 Calories a Day
Work for your food
Here's another way to slow down your eating: munch on foods that require shelling, peeling, or individual unwrapping, suggests Blatner. Oranges, edamame, and pistachios in their shells are healthy options.
Don't eat from the bag or box
When you sit down with a bag of chips, do you really know how many you're eating? Researchers from Cornell University sought to answer this question in a study and found that people ate 50% more chips when they were given no visual cues as to how large a portion should be. So if you buy a bag of pretzels or tin of nuts that contains 10 servings, divide the contents of the container into 10 smaller baggies ahead of time.
Slurp your appetizer
Before you dive into your entrée, have some soup. Though it may seem counterintuitive to add more to your meal, research shows that starting a meal with soup may help you reduce your overall calorie intake. In a 2007 study, people who ate soup before their lunch entrée reduced their total calorie intake by 20%. Your best bet: a broth-based soup, preferably with veggies to help you feel full from the natural fiber, says Young. -Diana Kelly
14 Ways to Cut Portions Without Feeling Hungry originally appeared on Health.com.
More from Health.com: