Most people believe that the obesity epidemic in the United States is because of our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, but a few studies point out that overeating alone can account for America’s weight gain. While staying active is important, portion control is another factor that is crucial for health.

You may be thinking of growling stomachs and tiny servings, but portion control strategies are just easy ways to trim calories and lose fat without counting the minutes till your next meal. These tips help cut calories without feeling like you’re on a diet. And most Americans could use to eat a little bit less.

Focus on the positives, avoid negatives

One of the biggest reasons that health goals fail is from negative or self-limiting beliefs. Eating is no different. Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, look forward to eating the things you like. In fact, with portion control, most things aren’t off limits. They’re just in the correct amounts.

When it comes to packaged foods pay attention to the label. The serving size is usually a good suggestion for portion control. Don’t eat straight from the box or bag. Researches found that people eat up to 50% more if they don’t have visual clues about how much they should be eating. Instead, divide packages into individual servings to avoid over-eating.

With this strategy, you can still enjoy some sweets and snacks without over doing it. Moderation is still the key so don’t go crazy, but you can still have appropriately sized treats to look forward to on occasion.

Hack your hunger

Increasing your vegetable intake will help decrease your calories while still feeling full. The added fiber in your diet bulks up the meal and helps you feel fuller, faster. But there are some other hacks you can do that don’t depend on the type of food.

Drink a glass of water before a meal. Filling the stomach with water naturally decreases the amount you’ll eat. Plus, your rumbling stomach maybe a symptom of dehydration, so drinking water might knock out your hunger completely.

You might be aware that using smaller dishes can help you eat less food. Researches found that smaller bowls and utensils could reduce consumption by 14.5-31%. But did you know the color of the plate can influence how much you eat? If your food closely matches your plate, you could over-eat by 22% thanks to an optical illusion. Red plates seem to do the trick well for most foods.

Pay attention, avoid distractions

Put away the phone, turn off the TV, and eat away from your desk. A large study recently found that distractions cause people to eat more. Even playing computer solitaire while eating can cause you to feel less full and eat more later in the day.

Try eating in a more relaxed setting. Dimming the lights and listening to calm music can help set the mood for eating at a leisurely pace. Smaller, slower bites can help stretch the meal out and keep you from quickly over-eating. This gives your body time to tell you you’re full.

Eating right

While a treat every once-in-awhile isn’t going to cause too much trouble, a regular habit of unhealthy eating can have other health concerns aside from weight gain. A good goal for any meal is to have 2/3rds to 3/4ths of it be fruits and vegetables, with more veggies than fruits.

This, along with the other portion control tips, can help you prevent over-eating while maintaining a healthy diet… with just a few treats along the way!