It can be hard to control your food portion sizes. How could you just say ‘no’ to a second helping of your favorite food?
Portion control doesn’t mean going hungry, it just means learning to eat enough to just be satisfied and fueled up for the rest of your day. The differing recommendations as to how much people should eat, and the massive portions restaurants dole out to customers can make trying to eat right and just enough feel like a virtual minefield. The key to finding the right balance for you really is seeing what works for your own body and not following all of the recommendations to the letter of the law.
There are, however, a few ways you can work towards getting your portions to be a bit more precise. Here are 5 tips to eat less (but enough) and healthy at the same time.
1. Ignore the Size of Your Plate
For years, we’ve heard that eating off of a smaller plate “tricks” the brain into believing we’re eating more. It turns out, that might not be the case at all. 
University of Connecticut researchers presented a group of 162 participants with a consistent portion of food served on different-sized plates and found that the overweight or obese participants ate the same amount as the healthy-weight ones.
“Focusing on the size of your plate isn’t teaching you the different amounts of what you should be eating,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N, dietitian at B-Nutritious. The size of your plate makes no difference if you don’t know what a proper portion size should look like. Instead, fill half your plate with vegetables, and divide the rest into quarters, with protein in one and starch in the other. And take your time eating so you can better sense when you’ve had enough. 
2. Don’t Deny Yourself the Foods You Love
It’s never really a good idea to eat low quality foods, but if you struggle with sheer willpower (as most people do), allow yourself to indulge…a little. Studies have shown that when people serve themselves a small portion of vice foods, they were just as tasty and satisfying as loading their plates with them. 
3. Eat Delicious-Smelling Foods
If you worry that just a whiff of something delicious will make you want to eat more of it, there’s good news: the more intense the aroma, the smaller the bite you’ll take, according to a study published in the journal Flavour. 
For the study, researchers presented 10 participants with vanilla custard. After manipulating the aroma of the rich dessert, the scientists found people actually took smaller bites when the aroma was stronger.
“Smelling food is a really important part of eating well because it’s linked to taste,” says Susan Albers, Psy.D., a psychologist and New York Times bestselling author of Eat Q: Unlock the Weight-Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence. “The good news is that inhaling the aroma before you take a bite is easy and quick.”
4. Slow Down
Unless you’re participating in an eating contest or you’re running late for a flight, there’s no reason to woof down your food. “Taking a mindful pause to ask yourself if you’re really hungry before you take even one bite is key,” Albers says.
Slowing down allows you to figure out if you’re fueling your body or just mindlessly chowing down due to stress or anxiety.
“I always recommend the 5 S’s of mindful eating: sit down, smell, savor, slowly chew and smile,” says Albers. “More is not better, even with food. It’s all about experiencing and enjoying what you eat. That’s what makes it truly satisfying.” 
5. Yes, You Can Trick Yourself into Eating Less
Distraction leads a lot of people to overeat, so make yourself pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth. “Switching hands jolts you out of autopilot. It’s similar to writing with your opposite hand. You can do it, but it takes more of your attention and concentration,” says Albers.
You can also make yourself feel fuller by drinking plenty of water. An estimated eight glasses a day (not set in stone) properly hydrates the body and keeps people from overeating.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.