How to Use Portion Control.

We know that when it comes to portions, size matters. It’s easy to talk about portion control tips, like taking just a few bites of dessert or eating off of smaller dinner plates – but applying that advice is another thing altogether.

Most mornings, my breakfast includes a bowl of cereal. I reach for whatever bowl is available, and then add my cereal and milk. I have two different size bowls: one is 6 inches and the other is 8 inches.

Today, I wondered if my cereal is subject to the large plate theory. The theory goes something like this:

  1. Portions look smaller on larger plates, so…
  2. We put more food on larger plates, so…
  3. We end up eating a greater quantity of food.

The takeaway is that by opting for a smaller plate, we will consume less food. Simple enough.

To test it out, I added my typical serving size of cereal to both the 6-inch and 8-inch bowls. To be honest, the amounts looked fairly similar. But then I took out my measuring cup. As it turns out, I put an extra 3/4 of a cup of cereal (equivalent to 150 calories – or roughly 12 minutes on the treadmill) in the 8-inch bowl. My larger bowl contained a 33% larger portion of cereal.

For me, there are a two morals of the story. First, the large plate theory is very much true. Second, it’s critically important to apply abstract advice and tips to concrete instances in each of our lives. Reading tips is one thing. Living them is another. ๐Ÿ™‚

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. Here’s the thing tho. Some people *my hand is up* will get a second serving in a smaller plate/bowl. While having a larger plate/bowl will allow me to get a little more than one serving but not double!
    After times like the holidays, when we usually allow ourselves to eat more, it seems hard to lessen our intake of food. It comes down to a discipline matter. For about a week or two, I eat less than I have been, including the elimination of over snacking. My stomach may tell me to eat more, but I don’t feed it more. By the end of the second week, my stomach gets full quicker. The tricky part is always the snacking. It’s hard to eat less and not snack to make up for the smaller amounts of food.

    • I don’t totally agree. Yes, sometimes we’ll go for the second plate of food… but I’m really just as content with my smaller bowl of cereal. I don’t go up for a second bowl.

      • Personally, I chalk it up to unconscious consumption (i.e. naively chowing down), especially when one grabs handfuls of cereal straight from the box. It takes real discipline to develop the inner voice of how many cal/fat/carb you’re consuming per measurement of anything, man. ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. So true! I totally agree with this article… It couldnt be more precise!

  3. What I’ve done over the past several months is to actually weigh out and calorie count my food. UGH! I know it sucks, but what has happened is that I now recognize the appropriate (for me) portion of my favorite foods. And, most importantly for me, I’ve learned the caloric cost of food that I love. I haven’t banned any food from my options but now I know the “price” of the food. So just like if I had $20 in my pocket for food: Would I spend $10 of it on 6 Oreos and then only have enough money for 1/2 a can of tuna for the rest of the day? likely not, I might buy 1 Oreo though ๐Ÿ™‚

    So it is a pain in the (insert body part here) but after you learn what the cost of everything you like is, you can make better decisions. So it was worth it for me to buy a scale, get an iPhone app that let’s me look things up (I use iFitness because it also works as a work-out journal), and just start logging it in.

  4. Davey Watcher says:

    Davey, I just HAD to comment–whenever given a choice, I ALWAYS opt for the eight inches!

  5. its also important to read the nutrition label on pkgd foods… your idea of “one serving” may be completely different than the mfgrs recommended portion…. also, the calorie, fat, protein, sodium carbs.. – nutrition breakdown – listed on the package is for a recommended serving… not the whole thing… (unless its a single serving deal)… some are very vague too… do your own math, for your own bodys needs..

    ~ cheers…