Proper portion control is essential to any healthy diet, but it’s particularly important for a type 2 diabetes diet because it helps regulate blood sugar levels, which is a crucial step in managing type 2 diabetes. Following a consistent meal schedule with proper portions keeps blood sugar levels from spiking or bottoming out. It can also help you control your hunger and maintain a healthy body weight. Eating with diabetes requires stronger focus on limiting carbs, fat, and calories, and this makes portion control even more important.
Portion Size: Why Less Is More
“There are many healthy foods that can be included in a type 2 diabetes diet, but if you eat large servings of these foods, you’re likely to end up consuming too many carbohydrates, fats, and calories, which will lead to weight gain,” says Jennifer Garland, RD, a registered dietitian with the Vanderbilt Diabetes Program in Nashville, Tenn.
The best approach to a healthy diabetes meal schedule is to eat frequent small meals throughout the day. Snacks are an easy way to squeeze in those much-needed fruits and vegetables that’ll help you meet your need of a minimum of five servings (at least two and a half cups) a day.
By spacing out your meals, you can take in a more consistent amount of carbohydrates at each meal, Garland says. This will help control your blood sugar levels as well as curb your appetite and boost your energy.
Tips to Trim Portion Sizes
Follow these guidelines to bring portions down to size for a healthy type 2 diabetes diet:
Dine on smaller plates. “Plates and bowls have gotten larger at restaurants and in homes,” Garland says. The plates used today are estimated to hold up to a whopping 400 extra calories per meal. “Using smaller dishes at home is helpful when it comes to reducing portions, since we typically eat what’s in front of us,” she adds.
Use measuring cups. Eyeballing is not an accurate way of measuring your portion sizes. Whenever possible, pour your serving of rice, pasta, cereal, or any other food into measuring cups to determine exactly what you’re getting.
Get “handy.” When measuring cups aren’t available, use your hands as a guide. “One cup is about the size of a small fist,” Garland says. A 3-ounce serving of meat is approximately the size of the palm of your hand; a single teaspoon is roughly the size of the tip of your thumb.
Serve and sit. Don’t put the entire serving dish in front of you on the table — this makes second (and even third) helpings too tempting. Keep serving plates in the kitchen, and dish out appropriately portioned food onto your plate.
Put snacks in a dish. Serve snacks in a cup or bowl that holds about 1/2 cup to 1 cup, and then put the box or bag away so you’re less tempted to keep snacking.
Fill up on low-calorie veggies. “Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, salad, and tomatoes to increase your intake of fiber and help you fill up faster,” Garland says.
And don’t let yourself go hungry. Indulge in smart snacks — healthy, portion-controlled choices that are good sources of fiber and lean protein — throughout the day. Not only will you feel more satisfied, but you’ll also find yourself having better blood sugar control and enjoying a healthier weight.