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Portion Control When You Have Type 2 Diabetes

Watching How Much You Eat

Portion control—how much you eat at every meal—is key in helping you manage type 2 diabetes and lose weight (if you need to do that).

What makes portion control so important is that it automatically reduces your calories without having to count them. Because controlling portions can lead to weight loss, watching how much you eat can also contribute to more manageable blood glucose levels.

Although not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight or obese, many people who have the condition need to lose weight. Being overweight can increase insulin resistance (when your body can no longer properly use insulin).

Losing weight with type 2 diabetes by downsizing your portions can help you become less insulin resistant. Your body may be able to use insulin better when you lose weight.

Controlling portion sizes isn't as challenging as you might think—it's a very basic, easy change to make, and you won't need any fancy tools.

What Your Plate Should Look Like
According to the American Diabetes Association, your plate at each meal should be filled with non-starchy vegetables and smaller portions of starchy foods and lean meats.1

Use the tips below for basic portion control at lunch and dinner:

  • Draw an imaginary line down the center of your plate.
  • Then on one side of your plate, divide it again so your plate is split into 3 sections.
  • Half of your plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables (eg, carrots or cauliflower).
  • Fill one-fourth of your plate with protein or lean meat (eg, turkey or tuna).
  • The other one-fourth of your plate should be filled with a starchy food (eg, whole grain bread or potato).

For breakfast, your plate will look different, but use the same idea: small portions of healthy foods. You could eat a bowl of oatmeal with a banana and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, for example.

Suggested Serving Sizes for Weight Loss
Below are some other helpful portion control guidelines—specifically serving suggestions—from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, an arm of the National Institutes of Health. 2 Use these suggestions to help you eyeball recommended serving sizes.

  • 1 serving of whole grains = about the size of your fist
    • ½ cup brown rice
    • 1 slice whole grain bread
  • 1 serving of chopped raw vegetables or fruits = about the size of a baseball
    • ½ cup tomatoes
    • ½ cup strawberries
  • 1 serving of low-fat dairy = about the size of a tennis ball (yogurt or milk) or 4 stacked dice (cheese)
    • 1 cup low-calorie yogurt or skim milk
    • 1 ½ ounces of low fat cheese
  • 1 serving of protein or lean meats = about the size of a deck of playing cards
    • 3 ounces of grilled chicken breast
    • ½ cup black beans

Following these portion control basic guidelines has major benefits, and it's encouraging to see results. But you need to be patient—these changes don't happen overnight. It takes hard work and dedication to lose weight and keep it off, but it's definitely worth it for your health.

A certified diabetes educator or registered dietitian can help you meet your weight loss goals by suggesting meal plans and healthy recipes. For hundreds of flavorful diabetes-friendly recipes, check out our Diabetic Recipes Center.

Eating healthy and controlling your portions with type 2 diabetes can significantly help you manage your condition, leading to weight loss and other healthy lifestyle changes.

Updated on: December 10, 2012
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