Taking Control with Portion Sizes This Holiday Season

The holiday season is quickly approaching! Gatherings with family and friends are often filled with laughter, games, happy memories…and casseroles and desserts served with a side of guilt. 

thanksgiving table

Portion Control and Overeating

We all overeat from time to time, and during the holidays it can feel more difficult to break the habit. Another piece of Aunt Betty’s coconut cake or that third helping of Grandma’s turkey- it’s hard to resist. We tend to eat more than we need for many reasons – not wanting to waste, getting our money’s worth, feeling bored, happy, sad, or just eating out of habit.

But did you know that people who usually overeat are more likely to be overweight? The cycle of overeating and weight gain can increase the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, trouble sleeping, difficulty breathing, and heart disease. This holiday season, it’s time to take control. You can have your cake (and eat it too!) by paying attention to portion sizes. 

MyPlate: Healthy Portions for Beginners 

Portion control includes the amount and types of foods we eat. MyPlate.gov was created by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)  and has easy to follow tips for a healthy diet. For a well-balanced meal, MyPlate recommends:

  • Two sections (or ½ of the plate) fruits and vegetables, 
  • One section of lean proteins (such as meat, poultry, fish, or beans)
  • One section of grains (focus on whole grains!)
  • Be sure to include a serving of dairy such as low-fat or non-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese. 

Each section of the plate is important to keep our weight balanced, muscles fueled, and our bodies healthy.

 Help Yourself to Some Practical Tips!

In addition to MyPlate, there are a lot of easy ways you can help yourself and your family to be smarter about portion sizes!

  • Use a smaller plate: we normally eat what we see. Using a smaller plate can “trick” your mind into feeling full without overeating.
  • Watch serving sizes: serving sizes are listed on packages and can help us avoid eating extra calories, sugar, salt, and saturated fat.
  • Portion out leftovers: make it easy to eat the right amount
  • Don’t clean the plate: encourage kids to eat until they are full – not until their plate is clean. Teaching children portion control early will help them control their weight throughout life.
  • Avoid eating out of the bag: take out just one serving to avoid eating too much
  • Leave the dish on the counter: reaching for seconds at the dinner table is easy when the dish is beside you. 

Watching what you eat doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on the holiday season, it just means you get to be smarter about it! Go ahead and enjoy a piece of cake or dig into that pie, just be mindful of your portion sizes.

Happy Eating!


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Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

North Carolina State University
Agricultural and Human Sciences Department

Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES)

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