Habits of Healthy Eaters: Measure Portions

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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BONNIE1552 11/21/2020
I do pull out the measuring cups and spoons. Report
YMWONG22 11/5/2020
Thanks Report
CECELW 5/13/2020
Measuring does make a difference Report
KATHYJO56 5/8/2020
I have found that measuring and weighing makes an amazing difference Report
I measured initially so I would know where soy milk came to on my glass. Proteins I check the weight on package before dividing servings (beef, fish) etc. We eat out a lot so many times I estimate if local place doesn't post calories or it's a special item. Some combo foods are hard but I know to use the same ideas. Veggies I may measure or not, sometimes count like brussel sprouts, baby carrots. With fruit I pay close attention to size. When I do cook, I use SP Recipes to input the meal ingredients & figure out calories per svg that way. After years of doing WW & SP, I'm pretty accurate when I do recheck. Weights tho are often more accurate & provide a bit more like w/ cereal.🐨 Report
I refresh my measurements about once a month. Report
Thanks Report
Thanks, Report
Thank you Report
Wish I felt comfortable using the eye it method out in public. Report
Measuring cups do not lie! Use them! Report
I am a firm believer in weighing & measuring. I read the labels to pay attention to serving size (and other nutrition information), but sometimes the serving size is much more than what a healthy portion size is. So I am careful about that. Report
Thank you so much Report
we are so use to sizing up that it is hard to just be satisfied with a serving. Report
measuring for sure. Report
Absolutely great Report
very good info--- Report
Thank you for the information. Report
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.
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... Report
i weigh most stuff on a digital scale in grams. fluids and gooey things like PB get spoons and cups for measuring. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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! Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
I pretty much weigh and measure everything- it helps in seeing how much I really eat
when I'm being good I measure everything that passes my lips. I pay attention to serving sizes too. My problem is consistency. Report
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. :) Report
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? Report
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. Report
I have to weigh and measure my foods otherwise I will distort(sp) the portions Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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 Report
Correction - I am now 117. Report
Since I found out I was diabetic last April I count everything. i was 145lbs. and I am not 117. Report