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?