Before we dive into our next low carb challenge, let’s tackle one of the BIGGEST issues most people have with their weight loss goals: portion control and mindful eating. ✅
People often ask me about keto portions for snacks & meals. That’s the TOP question I get asked if I share a meal on Instagram or Facebook without the detailed measurements & macros.
For a long time that perplexed me. 🤔 They would ask things like how much butter did you use, how many eggs is that, how much cheese, how many almonds is that? etc. I finally figured out what they were really asking about: keto portion size and keto portion examples!
📌 As a sidenote, I want to say: this doesn’t really matter so much when you’re just getting started, whether you are starting keto for the first time, or starting back to low carb eating after being off track for awhile. BUT – it’s a good thing to get a handle on, sooner than later in your health & weight loss journey. 😉 I’ll explain why, and share my experience…
When I first started eating low carb 10 years ago, my mother said: eat as much (food) as you need to feel both physically and emotionally satisfied, just stay around 20 net carbs a day.
When my 25yo daughter came home last winter and wanted to start the keto diet, I gave her that same advice – because it works. Starting a diet or making any big lifestyle change is hard enough.
What worked for me when I started was to NEVER feel deprived, NOT to count calories, but just to keep it simple and not change any real habits (at first) – only which foods I chose to eat. That’s it.
I battled many eating disorders over the years, from bulimia to binge eating, emotional over-eating and stress eating. For me it was a means of coping (that never actually worked).
My daughter fortunately didn’t pick up those bad habits from me, but she got herself in the habit of mindless eating – to the point of having food on her night stand, and waking up to eat a few bites several times in the night even.
We’re all different, whether you’ve developed bad habits, turned to food for comfort & coping, or simply need to unlearn simple things like “always eat what’s handed to you” or that you need to always clean your plate. Even that feeling “stuffed” is normal, rather than simply being satisfied.
Portion Control for Weight Loss -vs- Mindful Eating
You can easily get into negative territory on the topic of portion control…
For one person, portion control may feel restrictive or make you feel deprived – which tends to backfire. For another person, it may feel empowering, giving you a sense of control.
I have been both of those people. 🙋♀️
What works for one person may not work as well for another. It all depends on where you are in your journey, because things will definitely change as you go. The key is to just get started and stay consistent, whatever that takes. Once you’re over that hump, you can start tweaking and improving, and it’s A LOT easier to gradually make positive changes to your diet AND your mindset.
When I first started eating very low carb (Atkins20 / Keto), I could eat an entire pound of bacon in one sitting. I went through boxes of Atkins bars and Quest bars and whole bags of Russell Stover sugar free candy. 😳 I drank 3-6 diet sodas a day. That’s all in addition to “meals” which I tried to keep very low carb (bacon & eggs for breakfast, a hamburger steak with broccoli for dinner, etc).
But you know what? I lost weight – and fast.
I lost 8 pounds in the first 10 days alone!
My daughter had the same experience when she came home and started eating low carb. At first she ate just as much as she normally did, including getting “stuffed” and eating out of boredom. She simply ate ONLY low carb foods – and the weight started coming off!
Once she got into ketosis and felt leaner, all in a few short days, THAT is when the motivation kicked in. Who doesn’t love to feel great?! Being in ketosis is also a natural appetite suppressant – you’re less hungry, and you have less cravings – so it just gets EASY after that first few days. 😉
That’s why I encourage people to start where you are. Just change which foods you eat, only – and don’t try change everything about yourself all at once…
Simply switch from sugar to sugar free, from soda to diet soda, swap a baked potato for loaded broccoli, use lettuce or low carb wraps in place of bread, etc.
My daughter went through the exact same transition I did. She started out eating ALL the sugar free chocolate, baking keto recipes, making low carb pancakes, eating keto snacks, etc.
Then the shift happened. Once she was in ketosis I noticed she was eating less, and actually eating more healthy low carb meals – and rarely snacking.
Portion control and better food choices happened naturally for her, the same way it did for me.
That’s what’s SO great about “keto” (being in ketosis) – it does all the hard work FOR you. 😉
Portion Control Tips to create Healthy Eating Habits
I shared those stories and our experiences with you to say: I don’t expect anyone to start out perfect, or to change every single habit overnight. That’s unrealistic.
It’s just as easy to create BAD habits like depriving yourself, punishing yourself, pushing yourself too hard – or to change too much too fast – which easily leads to a vicious cycle of self sabotage and binge eating and back to self-punishment. 🚫 Don’t do that. (I did that over and over for YEARS and it really sucks the life out of you.)
These tips on portion control are less about dieting, and much more about creating healthy eating habits. It boils down to mindful eating, and ultimately: HAPPY mindful living!
Like anything else, this is all about habits. Once something becomes habit, it’s like second nature!
As a former binge eater, here are my top tips for portion control – or what’s worked for me:
🔹️ I still track my meals & macros. All of them. I find it makes for more mindful eating!
Tip: decide what you’re going to eat, log that, plate what you logged – and walk away with only the plate. You can always go back for more… but I rarely want or need to. And I hate having to update my entry in MyFitnessPal. 😅
🔹️ On that note, yes: I measure out my pecans, sugar free chocolate chips I snack on, cheese, blueberries, you name it. I bought a small inexpensive kitchen scale on Amazon and use it daily!!
🔹️ You don’t have to clean your plate. You’re an adult now! You also don’t HAVE to eat breakfast. Screw the rules.🤘
🔹️ Mindful Eating: this probably helped me more than anything – LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. I eat when I’m hungry, don’t eat when I’m not hungry, and stop eating when I’m satisfied (vs stuffed, feeling stuffed sucks!).
It’s that simple. I don’t eat by the clock, NOT eat by the clock 🕒 I just eat when I’m hungry and don’t when I’m not, period.
🔹️ Never EVER walk off with the whole bag, box, whatever. 😳 🚫 Note to self about those choczero chocolate chips, lol. 🙈 Again: log it, measure/weigh it, put away the container – walk away. 😉
🔹️ I had no discipline to do all this. I was SO frustrated with myself. 🤦♀️😢 I kept giving up and binge eating even more (mindless comfort eating). So I decided to start small, baby steps…
🔹️ Challenge yourself to portion control, tracking macros and mindful eating for just 5 days. 🖐 Five short days, less than a week. Then see how you feel. Feel great?! Do five more.🙂
🔹️ Create PATTERN INTERRUPTS to kick bad food habits. Move the thing you reach for most – make it harder to get to, it reminds you when you do it out of habit! Then you can decide if you really want that.
* I put the keto ice cream in the basement freezer. 😅 I also found myself wanting to snack while watching tv recently. So I moved to the other end of the couch where there’s no table and it’s more awkward (because I’m right handed).
Change the habits & patterns that make it EASY to eat – when you really don’t need to (ie you’re not hungry).
Smart Portion Control: Measuring vs Weighing
Have you ever counted out your almonds or macadamia nuts? 👀
If so, you’re probably cheating yourself out of several nuts! I’m sure you’ve noticed they’re all different shapes and sizes, so it’s hard to guesstimate how many grams you’re getting that way.
I discovered this with chocolate chips when I finally got a kitchen scale, and realized a TBSP (14 grams) was a lot less IN a tablespoon than it was on the scale!
That’s because there’s AIR between them. And air is NOT one of my macros. 🤨
For solid foods like cheese, nuts, chocolate chips, spinach, chicken, etc – you definitely want to measure it in ounces or grams.
For liquids or creams (like almond butter or salad dressing), you want to use measuring cups & spoons.
If you want to get REAL PICKY (lol!) you can put your measuring cup on the kitchen scale, press the tare button (zero it out), then add your liquid or dressing or almond butter – and see just how accurate your measurement is. But that’s really not necessary, unless you’re just curious. (or OCD) 😉
My daughter does NOT like to weigh, measure OR track the foods she eats and she still does very well losing weight just by eating very low carb. That’s okay too!
Like I said, that’s exactly how I started out – except I tracked my “20 net carbs a day” on paper, and knew absolutely nothing about macros the first year or so.
It helps that I’ve been using a low carb meal delivery service. She can just grab a perfectly portioned healthy dinner, and not have to worry about what to eat – or measuring and macros.
Photo 📸 Evolve unboxing last week. This is the meal delivery I use for perfectly portioned keto meals.👌 My discount code is LOWCARBTRAVELER for 20% off if you want to try it out. I’m loving it! You don’t have to subscribe, you can just order the meals you want straight from their website menu: https://travelinglowcarb.com/evolve 📦 see examples here
I like simple meals! In my bowl 🥣 half a pound of chicken salad (8oz, it’s a big bowl!) and 56 grams of planters roasted pecans + a little over an ounce of colby jack cheese off the block. 🧀
Have you tried roasted pecans in your chicken salad yet? 😍
That ^ would be considered a big meal for me, lunch or dinner usually. It’s very filling, fast & easy to throw together, and something I can eat at my desk while I’m working even.
Why I Track Meals & Macros – And My Daughter Doesn’t
If you’re feeling great and losing weight, you’re probably doing just fine! That worked for me in the beginning too. If you stop losing weight or start gaining weight – then it’s really helpful to track your meals and macros, so you can figure out what to tweak.
Portion Control isn’t just about weight loss though.
For me it was about SO much more.
It was about mindful eating, which turned into mindful LIVING – and finally overcoming YEARS of eating disorders. There were so many things in my life spinning out of control, things that were simply OUT of my control, and turning to food… also made ME feel out of control.
Life can throw you some curve balls for sure. It happens to all of us. It still happens to me. But now, instead of spiraling down with it, I stay in charge of what I can. I stay grounded in my goals at least. There’s something VERY empowering about that! 💖
You have to decide what’s right for you.
If tracking, measuring, weighing, etc turns into more of an obsession for you – it might be good to ease off, or find some balance in that. Anything that feels like “restrictive dieting” or “punishment” or has a negative emotion tied to it, is something you need to explore.
For me, it’s simply habit at this point – and rather fun & interesting. 🙂
I started tracking when I hit my first big stall, and it was VERY helpful, and quite enlightening! I discovered why I stopped losing weight and why I didn’t have much energy anymore: I was eating too lean. 🤔 Go figure!
While I was in maintenance mode, after losing weight and getting in great shape, it wasn’t necessary for me to track my macros closely. I was at a point where I ate a lot of the same things and stayed within my macros out of habit.
Right now I’m testing & tweaking as I work through some metabolic health issues with post-viral syndrome, so tracking is something I’m keeping a close eye on again.
I also got a little snacky this past year, and lenient with my portions, during recovery. Which is why I thought it was a good time to share this topic 😉 and challenge us ALL to be more mindful about what we’re eating, and why.
Thoughts or questions?
I would love to hear what works best for you, what you struggle with most, and whether you’re interested in challenging yourself to “mindful eating” this week!
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