Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience
We all like to eat, not just for sustenance but also for the sensory pleasure. Overeating, however, is not great for your health. It affects your digestive system as well as your state of mind. It also changes the hormonal balance, specifically that of serotonin, leptin, ghrelin(1) that control our appetite and satiety centre, changes levels of insulin and affects blood circulation (the reason we feel sleepy after stuffing food instead of eating it).
Why is Portion Control Important for Diabetics?
Diabetes impairs the body’s ability to metabolise food as well as the secretion and functioning of insulin. This combination of impairments leads to rises in blood sugar levels, especially right after meal consumption. To aid in better blood sugar control, having a healthy balanced meal is essential. And the best way to have a balanced meal is to portion your food.
Of all the food groups we consume daily, carbohydrates have the highest impact on blood sugar level. Thus, managing the quantity as well as the quality of carbs should be the primary goal in managing diabetes. Carbohydrate quality is important in terms of glycemic index, the rate at which it releases sugar into the blood.(2)
Advantages of Portion Control
Eating right is not about having small portions but the Right portions. This can vary from person to person. The aim should be to feel satisfied and happy after a meal, and not stuffed and dull. Your meal size naturally drops as a consequence of planning out food portions with consumption at regular intervals. This ensures good digestion, assimilation and absorption of food leaving you with several health benefits.
How Can One Practice Portion Control in Day-To-Day Life?
Veer Ramlugon, Founder of The Food Analysts, a human-powered calorie counting service, helps us in understanding the right way of controlling portion size for diabetics.
1. Divide your plate: Follow the 30-40-30 rule. Aim to fill your plate with 30 percent carbs (non-starchy, high fibre, low glycemic index carbs), 40 percent lean proteins and the rest 30 percent as essential fats. This way you make sure blood sugar levels stay stable.
2. Use smaller plates and glasses: If you keep large plates and glasses in your kitchen, consider replacing them with smaller ones. An appetizer plate could help you eat less. Just by replacing 12-inch plates with 10-inch plates, you might serve yourself 22 percent fewer calories. The key for people with diabetes to being able to stick to healthy portions of carbs is to fill up on flavoursome and interestingly prepared vegetables (don’t forget to herb them up!)
3. Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets: Meal plans and buffet dining halls can both seem like a royal gesture, but the poor side is that you may end up overeating. In such buffets, most of us end up feeding our greed (brain) rather than our hunger (stomach). Moreover, the healthiness of the cooking methods is also doubtful.
4. Read food labels when buying processed or ready-made food items: The food label has useful information about what is included in one serving of food. It also includes information about “added sugars.” Added sugars include table sugar variants, such as beet and cane sugars, corn syrup, honey, malt syrup, and other sweeteners that have been added to food and beverages. These spike your blood sugar levels. Also note that milk contains naturally-occurring sugars and (lactose) is not included in the label as added sugars. Reading these labels will help you make the best-informed choices.
5. Visually mapping your food works best: Visual aids make it easier to remember the quantity of food to be consumed as per your goal. Here are some examples:
Small handful – 1/4 cup of dried fruit, or 1 oz of nuts
Woman’s fist – a serving of vegetables, or one piece of whole fruit
A matchbox – a 1 oz serving of meat, or a serving of cheese
Deck of cards or the palm of your hand (excluding fingers) – a 3oz serving of meat, fish or poultry, or 10 French fries
Check book – a serving of fish (approximately 3 oz)
Tennis ball – 1/2 cup of pasta, or a serving of ice cream
Computer mouse – a medium baked potato
Compact disc– one serving of pancake
Your thumb – one serving of cheese, or one tablespoon of salad dressing
Thumb tip or one dice – one teaspoon of oil
A baseball – 8 oz cup of yogurt, one cup of beans, or one cup of dry cereal.
Finally, and most importantly, chew your food well. It takes 15-20 mins for your brain to realise that your stomach is already full. So eat slowly and eat well.
Photo by Travis Yewell on Unsplash
- Klok MD1, Jakobsdottir S, Drent ML. The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review. PMID: 17212793 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2006.00270.x Obes Rev. 2007 Jan;8(1):21-34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17212793
- Marsh K1, Barclay A, Colagiuri S, Brand-Miller J. Glycemic index and glycemic load of carbohydrates in the diabetes diet. PMID: 21222056 DOI: 10.1007/s11892-010-0173-8 Curr Diab Rep. 2011 Apr;11(2):120-7. doi: 10.1007/s11892-010-0173-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21222056