Habits of Healthy Eaters: Measure Portions

1SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
2/6/2009 2:05 PM   :  183 comments

My boyfriend recently started measuring what he eats and tracking it on SparkPeople. As it turns out, the oversized bowls that he uses for pasta hold more than 2 cups of noodles. A serving size is half a cup, so he was often eating four times what he should have been! That's an extra 250 calories.

He also discovered that the "splash" of half-and-half he used in his coffee was more like 3 tablespoons--60 calories and 6 grams of fat. Multiply that times two cups of coffee seven days a week and that's an extra 840 calories and 84 grams of fat.

Measuring portions helps keep you on track, and it keeps you from convincing yourself you only had "a few" chips when you know the bag was full when you opened it. (No one else does that? Just me? OK…) Find out how to recover from portion distortion.


  • Use measuring cups. It's just as easy and quick to serve yourself using a measuring cup as it is with a spoon or a ladle. You'll be exact every time.

  • Visualize your portions. What does a half cup of pasta look like? (a billiard ball or a cupcake liner) How much meat is 3 ounces? (a deck of cards) Learn what to picture when you serve yourself, then take our Portion Distortion quiz to reinforce what you've learned.

  • Shrink your dishes. That half cup of pasta looked skimpy in the large, deep bowls we were using. Once we used smaller bowls, the pasta with broccoli (1 cup, or the size of two billiard balls) and marinara sauce (also 1/2 cup) seemed like much more food.

  • Take advantage of generous portions of fruits and vegetables. A serving of leafy greens is one cup; that's the size of a baseball. Once you've got a serving of dairy, protein and a couple of whole grains, fill up on vegetables. You can trick your eyes into thinking you're eating more calories than you really are.

  • Liquid calories count. Unless you're drinking water, use the tallest, skinniest glass possible. Studies have shown that people pour more liquid into short, squat tumblers. Use a glass measuring cup to pour your milk, juice even wine to make sure you're drinking what you think you're drinking. A serving size of juice is 6 ounces (about the size of a hockey puck), and a serving size of milk is one cup (8 ounces, or the size of a baseball). Wine is slightly lower: 5 ounces a serving.


Once you know how to recognize a proper portion size, you can put away the measuring cups and trust yourself. Until then, a cheap set of measuring cups can help keep your portions under control.

NOTE: Weighing food is another option. However, as we're not on the metric system in the States, it's not always a familiar system of measurement.

Do you measure or weigh your food? How do you monitor portions?



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Comments

  • 183
    The article and several comments mentioned that 1 portion of pasta is 1/2 cup.

    I believe "portion size" is not always same as "serving size", especially not for grains.
    We are supposed to eat 6-11 serving sizes of grains, but we do not have 6-11 meals a day.
    I have 4 meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, dinner 2), usually around 280-350 calories.
    One serving of grains per meal would be 4 servings only, which is not enough.
    So for 3 meals I have 2 servings of grains (2 slices of bread or 1 cup of rice/pasta), and for 1 meal 1 serving (1/2 cup of cereals).
    That is 7 servings of grains, on the lower end of the recommended 6-11 servings.
    - 8/28/2011   11:46:53 AM
  • 182
    I just bought the portions kit from the spark store so I've been doing this about the last week. When I see the serving size, it doesn't always give the weight so mostly everything is measured in cups, tsp, tbsp etc... - 8/10/2011   4:19:34 PM
  • 181
    i weigh most stuff on a digital scale in grams. fluids and gooey things like PB get spoons and cups for measuring. - 8/6/2010   10:57:44 PM
  • 180
    I make sure I measure everything at least one time per week if not more. I also weight my meat to make sure I am staying on track. I like knowing that I am really staying within the target range that I need to be. Measuring adds to my accountability in my healthy lifestyle living. - 2/9/2010   7:16:06 AM
  • LISASAB
    179
    I have a visual reminder of how plate sizes have grown over the last couple of decades because I have dishes that were purchased 25 years ago, about 20 years ago and 5 years ago. While I don't have all of the plates/bowls from the older sets, I do use a couple of the bowls.(Don't ask why - don't know). The growth is visible even with the older sets - in fact I'm thinking of pulling out the remnants of the oldest set (also my favorite, but discontinued) because the dishes are so much smaller.

    I've restarted dishing up portions based on measuring spoons since my husband was recently diagnosed with diabetes and is struggling to understand portion sizes. - 2/8/2010   1:35:04 PM
  • CAZLINR
    178
    It always seemed like a hassle to weigh my food BUT I just bought a food scale on Amazon for $25 and I love it. It does pounds, ozs, grams, kilograms and has a tare feature. The tare feature subtract the weight of the bowl or container from the weight of the food automatically--so easy and accurate! And I've had some pleasant surprises: 3 ounces of turkey is bigger than I thought:) . But pleasant surprises haven't been real common for me which makes me doubly pleased that I bought it! - 1/17/2010   9:23:12 AM
  • 177
    I never use my "eye" to gage my portions. Most of the time, I would OVER do....but I am more fearful of NOT getting ALL I CAN HAVE ! Hey it is about eating! And who here, does NOT like to EAT!!!

    I use both metric and regular systems to measure. Metric is easier sometimes.

    Great blog! - 1/12/2010   2:34:43 PM
  • 176
    I do...when I am on my A game. I really feel comfortable with eyeballing my food now; as I have had plenty of practice. I can pretty much get the measurement correct by looking at the food on my plate or drink in my glass. - 1/11/2010   10:15:29 PM
  • CALIFCATMOM
    175
    Thanks for the great reminder - I sometimes think that I know exactly what quantity I'm eating then next time I measure and am usually very surprised by how much I'm really eating. Also have to check serving sizes on packages and have found it can be quite a surprise. One serving of raisins is absolutely tiny! - 3/23/2009   12:07:04 PM
  • 174
    I measure or weigh depending on what I'm preparing pre and post cooking. I bought an awesome digital kitchen scale before I started my lifestyle change. It has been invaluable to my success at eating within healthy portions. I know what portions should look like, but I still weigh everything. - 3/23/2009   7:00:14 AM
  • 173
    I measure everything. I use my boyfriends old digital postal scale that he got from a radio shack clearance. It's great, you can tare the weight of the plate and convert ounces to grams. - 2/12/2009   2:28:45 AM
  • 172
    I pretty much weigh and measure everything- it helps in seeing how much I really eat
    - 2/11/2009   4:24:22 PM
  • 171
    when I'm being good I measure everything that passes my lips. I pay attention to serving sizes too. My problem is consistency. - 2/11/2009   12:54:01 PM
  • TAFOOT1
    170
    Thanks for this! You know, we all KNOW that we should weight and measure regularly, but one can become overconfident and feel that one's eyeballing ability is never wrong. Portions are my problem only with my problem foods...pasta, potatoes, ice cream, rice...otherwise, I'm very good. Thanks for reminding me that even good can get better. :) - 2/10/2009   11:20:22 PM
  • MICKEE2
    169
    For all of you who measure your food. Is it true that you can almost whatever you want as long as you eat only a serving? - 2/10/2009   5:03:34 PM
  • MYEMPIRE
    168
    I need to measure portions for myself, and maybe a good start would be to only use the small dinner plates and my mini bowls, but also for my son. He is 3 and I never make him eat everything off of his plate, but the trick is not to even put too much food on his plate to begin with. I need to find a small separated plate that's perfect for little guys. I think I saw some at Target. - 2/10/2009   4:45:04 PM
  • 167
    I have to weigh and measure my foods otherwise I will distort(sp) the portions - 2/10/2009   1:51:52 PM
  • 166
    What's amazing is that when you start to measure, you start to "know" the amount of food you are eating, without measureing. I can now eyeball 4 oz. of chicken and it be right on the money. - 2/10/2009   10:34:46 AM
  • GIANT-STEPS
    165
    I measure or weigh food at home but when eating other places I have to estimate. Of course seeing how much food there is after measuring makes it easier for me to estimate as well. When estimating I'm generally conserative; if it looks like 3/4 cup I'll call it a cup since I'd rather overestimate my intake than under. - 2/10/2009   9:59:44 AM
  • 164
    I measure everything now too - I was amazed at how much a serving of pasta really is. Even after weighing and measuring for as long as I have, I find that if I don't do this, I start to go over on the portion sizes. - 2/10/2009   9:18:08 AM
  • 163
    I use a food scale and measuring cups. I've found over time, I like to go by weight. I can just eyeball most things now. - 2/10/2009   8:07:47 AM
  • DIALMELO
    162
    The first thing I did when losing weight was purchase a food scale. This has been the best $10 I've ever spent! It has made me pay attention to food portions and measure everything!
    As a reward for reaching a goal, I want to upgrade my scale to a digital one. - 2/9/2009   9:30:42 PM
  • PEACH103
    161
    I have a food scale and one whole kitchen drawer full of measuring cups and spoons. I have 5 one-cup and 5 half-cup measures, so that I always have a clean one handy. - 2/9/2009   8:38:42 PM
  • SEMARKS71
    160
    I really need to start measuring and I am going to...I am sure I am kidding myself with portion sizes.

    Thanks for the visuals and the reality check! - 2/9/2009   6:37:03 PM
  • 159
    I bought a $30 food scale and am very diligent about weighing (in grams) everything that I eat to ensure that I am tracking accurately - especially since I haven't been able to exercise (for medical reasons) - so I don't go over. It was definitely worth the money. - 2/9/2009   4:28:45 PM
  • SBATES63
    158
    I measure many things every time, including pasta, rice and oils as they contain a lot of calories for the portion size. I re-measure things like peanut butter, butter and meats from time to time to keep me on track. I find that if I don't, the portions tend to get bigger over time. - 2/9/2009   1:59:19 PM
  • 157
    I measure everything I eat and drink. It really helps me out - I am starting to learn how much stuff it without the measuring cups but I still rely heaviliy on the measuring. - 2/9/2009   12:57:03 PM
  • 156
    Yes I measure - it has helped immensely. Now that I have been doing it a while - I just know about some things without measure. I have a few bowls that are half cup and cup size that I use all the time especially good for snacks and fruit portions. I know that my ladle is 3/4 cup etc. - 2/9/2009   2:14:54 AM
  • 155
    I weigh my meat portions and measure many veggies. This helps me not overeat and also lets me know I'm getting enough fruits & veggies. - 2/8/2009   11:44:13 PM
  • 154
    This is so true! I found especially with things like pasta and meat that I was way off in my guesstimations...now thanks to the article, I measure everything, and weigh my meat etc...I have cut down on a lot of unecessary calories!!! THANK YOU!! :D - 2/8/2009   11:03:31 PM
  • 153
    Correction - I am now 117. - 2/8/2009   10:28:53 PM
  • 152
    Since I found out I was diabetic last April I count everything. i was 145lbs. and I am not 117. - 2/8/2009   10:28:09 PM
  • MSINTERPRETED_1
    151
    I love this topic, the nutrition tracker has been a great help to me and it has really opened my eyes to what I was eating. As I learn more and more about what is really in the food I eat, and consider how 'oversise' my portions were, it's no wonder I was gaining weight! I am making such great progress by just tracking what I eat. - 2/8/2009   10:13:52 PM
  • CHYNADAHLL
    150
    Since the new year began I have been meticulous about measuring and weighing EVERYTHING. I even invested in a digital scale. Since January 1 I have lost 24lbs and I have yet to go to the gym (even though I'm finally going tomorrow morning lol). I do not eat ANYTHING without measuring or weighing to make sure I'm only eating one serving. I've also eliminated eating out primarily for this reason but also to watch my salt, sugar, and oil/unhealthy fat content. Weighing and measuring is the TRUTH! If you don't do this, you should seriously start. - 2/8/2009   10:04:27 PM
  • 149
    I try to measure and weigh everything...its only when I go out to eat that I have a problem. When I'm out, I have to rely on myself to try and eat less or to make better choices. Most restaurants have been good about substituting veggies for either the french fries or onion rings. If not, I give them away, but I try not to eat them. :o)
    - 2/8/2009   7:44:30 PM
  • 148
    Oh this is so true! I have recently started measuring and boy is it an eye-opener! Do it! What a difference! - 2/8/2009   7:43:25 PM
  • 147
    I eyeball my portions, I use a smaller dinner plate and I count every calorie. If it goes in my mouth, I count it...whether it's food or drink. - 2/8/2009   6:13:59 PM
  • 146
    I used to be fanatical about measuring everything. I do still measure a lot of stuff, but I have become much better at "eye-balling" food. It's something that comes in handy, especially when eating out or at a friend's house. But, I do still check myself sometimes on my eye-ball measurements to make sure I am still on track.
    I've also found that the foods that I used to think one serving will never fill me up, are more filling. I know that I thought a 1/2 cup of pasta would never be enough. But you toss in some marinara sauce with chunks of tomato, onion and green peppers, and a salad with light dressing on the side, and a cup of milk...I'm usually not finishing everything at the end now.
    - 2/8/2009   5:02:28 PM
  • BIGRED1974
    145
    I just started measuring everything this month. Just by eating the correct portion it has helped jumpstart my diet. I have already lost 5 lbs this week. I know most is water weight but before the scale only budged a pound or too. I have also started using smaller plates. I drink a glass of water prior and a glass after meals and i am full. I have had no indegestion or that "stuffed" feeling like i normally do. I went from eating 3000+ calories a day to staying below 1600-1800 just by eating the correct portion. - 2/8/2009   3:58:11 PM
  • 144
    I know all this has to be true nut I never took the time to do it. But after reading this article I am determined to start putting these tips into action. - 2/8/2009   3:56:20 PM
  • CROSSHILLBB
    143
    This article is right on the money. I used to only measure my treats to make sure I wasn't over doing those, however, after joining this site I can now see how important measuring everything is. It has turned out to be a real eye opener. - 2/8/2009   3:09:35 PM
  • 142
    I agree with this article. I measure everything. Before i serve dinner i measure a portion and put it in the fridge for lunch the next day. It is amazing how these changes have helped in my weight loss effort. - 2/8/2009   2:43:49 PM
  • 141
    I agree with this article. I measure everything. Before i serve dinner i measure a portion and put it in the fridge for lunch the next day. It is amazing how these changes have helped in my weight loss effort. - 2/8/2009   2:43:49 PM
  • 140
    I agree with this article. I measure everything. Before i serve dinner i measure a portion and put it in the fridge for lunch the next day. It is amazing how these changes have helped in my weight loss effort. - 2/8/2009   2:43:49 PM
  • 139
    I am learning to measure and identify portion sizes much better now. I love the idea of using smaller bowls. It is a "mind over matter" issue. If I think I'm getting more, somehow I might feel fuller. I bought a digital scale from walmart for less than $30.00. It weighs in both units of measure (ounces and grams). It is so handy. It comes with a cover, and it's attractive enough to leave on your countertop for easy access. My husband, and I are both on spark people, so we both get plenty of use out of it. - 2/8/2009   2:43:27 PM
  • 138
    I agree with this article. I measure everything. Before i serve dinner i measure a portion and put it in the fridge for lunch the next day. It is amazing how these changes have helped in my weight loss effort. - 2/8/2009   2:43:07 PM
  • 137
    Learning to use the nutrition tracker was the best investment of time ever. I use metric measurements as most food labels list grams or ml and they are much easier to remember than 23.7 fl oz (700 ml). I matched a handful to grams or half or third cups. My soup spoon is about a T. A ladle is about a half of cup. 50 g of meat is about 3 oz. I know how much my glasses and pyrex containers hold. The conversion calculator on the nutrition tracker page is a valuable discovery. I enter favorite foods from the nutrition label when I want to be exact and make food groupings often. I don't cook by recipes so that wasn't a problem. I tracked everything, usually at the end of the day. I became a muncher, snacker or frozen dinner eater without any regular meal times when my daughter left home (oops that was a long while ago!) I do like to cook so the SparkRecipe site has been inspiring and I am remembering things I used to fix. I read labels faithfully and even track the DQ Blizzard I like (looked up nutrition online). It does make a difference when I see how much artifical sounding ingredients are in a product. Keeping it simple was a priority. Current challenge is staying within the cal range, increase protein and eat at more regular times. Working all day and then eating a meal at 10:00 PM isn't good! I have tracking lapses when I get busy yet the portions sizes remain a part of my daily life. - 2/8/2009   2:32:47 PM
  • 136
    I have used portion control for a long time .. but it is hard to tell others that there taking to much.. My 12 year old is wanting me to do this for her now.. It is hard for her not to eat what her friend are.. But she is been good so far.. She wants to loos 20 lbs.. Before everyone get up set her doc. said that would be great.. she needs to do this so it is are goal to do this together.. i need to loose a lot more than she does but i will help her and she is going to help me.. i also will not let her weigh her self more than once a week.. i do not what her to get to obsessed with the number on the scale.. i told her that if she looses it slow it will stay off.. she is not a salad eater so she eat carrot sticks cucumbers .. she will eat a little salad but not much.. i have been making a big salad and this helps me not to eat to much..
    i will eat a big salad then eat meat starch after that so as not to eat to much..
    she has also discovered that cottage cheese is good with fruit in it she saw be doing that and said Gross she then tried it and liked it.. also the yogurt thing she now likes so it is working out great.. She is wanting to do this so it will be good for us both.. i am letting my other daughter do this but she is fine she just wants to do this because we are.. so i will let her.. She may not need to ever worry about her weight if she does it her whole life.. the watching what you eat is the best part.. My husband will always snack at night and they will tell him that he is getting to fat and to stop.. I think that it hurts his feeling that his kids know that he is overeating - 2/8/2009   1:45:22 PM
  • 135
    I hate measuring things. It makes me neurotic. However, I've gotten good at eyeballing smaller portions. I also do use smaller sized plates and I load up on fruits and veggies.

    I have found that using smaller plates for food does make a difference. Eating off smaller plates means I am putting less on that plate. So yeah... it has made a difference.



    - 2/8/2009   1:20:23 PM
  • 134
    I weigh and I measure, because otherwise, I lie to myself about portions. It's making all the difference for me! Yeah SparkPeople! - 2/8/2009   12:40:56 PM

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