Taking Control of Portion Sizes

Most of us don’t think about our portion sizes when we sit down to eat a meal. Even if we do think about them, we may overestimate how much we should be eating and how much our portion sizes affect our waistlines. While portion sizes may seem inconsequential, eating the right portion sizes can make the difference between meals that lead to weight loss and meals that lead to weight gain.

The first step in taking control of portion sizes is learning typical portion size guidelines. Keep in mind that you may need more or less depending on your individual needs. The following are simply general guidelines.

  • A portion of meat or fish is the 3 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards;
  • For fruits and vegetables a portion is a cup, or the size of a tennis ball;
  • A single portion of cheese is one ounce, or the size of four dice;
  • When it comes to the fats, for foods such as oil, butter or cream cheese a portion is one tablespoon, or the size of your thumb;
  • A portion of peanut butter is two tablespoons, or both of your thumbs;
  • When pouring a bowl of cold cereal a portion is three quarters of a cup, or about the size of a tennis ball;
  • For pasta, which is most often overeaten, a portion is ½ cup, or about the size of a tennis ball;
  • A portion of yogurt or milk is one cup, or a regular coffee mug full;
  • For mashed potatoes a portion is one cup, or the size of your fist;
  • A portion of cooked rice is a half-cup, or the size of half a baseball;
  • If you are serving up cooked legumes, a portion is half a cup, or half the size of a baseball;
  • When eating a snack such as pretzels or crackers, fill a small coffee mug for a proper portion, instead of eating from the bag.

These visual comparisons can help you quickly choose the right amount of a food to eat. If you prefer to be more precise, you can use measuring cups and a food scale. A food scale will give you the weight of your food in ounces. After using measuring cups and a food scale for a while you will be able to recognize how big your portions of food should be. Choosing the right sized portions can become a habit.

You may think that by eating smaller portions you will still be hungry. Try eating slowly and drinking plenty of water with your meals. You will likely find yourself feeling satisfied but not stuffed at the end of your meals. And if you do find yourself still hungry, try filling up on more vegetables next time. Most vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, so they won’t sabotage your diet, but they will keep you feeling full.

Choosing proper portion sizes is a simple, yet vital step in eating right to lose weight. Keep in mind that the portion sizes I have listed are general. You may require a bit more or less depending on your nutritional needs. So the next time you are serving yourself a meal, stop and think about your portion sizes and whether or not you may want to cut back on them. Cutting down on your portion sizes can help cut down your waistline. 


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