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How do I judge portion sizes in order to avoid overeating?

A good way to estimate portion sizes is to have visual references that represent an appropriate portion size. For example, the size of your palm (without your fingers) is the close to the proper portion of meat. The size of your fist is the approximate portion size for most carbohydrates (potato, rice, cereal). The size of your thumb is equal to an appropriate amount of fat (dressing, oil, butter). Another good technique is to use a scale at home until you become familiar with what an appropriate serving looks like for you. Eventually, you will be able to “eye-ball” the right amount.
Find out what portion sizes are appropriate for you rather than accepting the heaping platefuls restaurants dole out. Do you know about how many calories you need to maintain a healthy weight? If you don't, consider working with a nutritionist to find out. Once you have an idea, translate that number into food choices and portion sizes. You can pick up a pocket calorie counter at your local bookstore or supermarket to help you with this.

For example, find out what the portions look like in a 400- to 500-calorie meal and use that as a guide to help you eat more reasonable amounts. If you go to a restaurant, look at the portion you receive. Is it reasonable? If not, don't eat it all. Only eat the amount of food that you decide is appropriate.
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A good tip to help the identification process for portion sizes is to compare typical serving sizes to physical objects. Below you will find a list of comparisons.
  • Medium apple is the size of baseball
  • 3 oz. of chicken/meat is the size of a deck of playing cards
  • Vegetables are the size of your fist
  • Nuts or chips is a cupped handful
  • Pasta uncooked is the size of one scoop of ice cream
  • Potato is the size of a cell phone
Portion control is a simple way to eat less and lose weight. Watch the video to learn how to reduce your food portion sizes.


Portion Control
Dominique Adair
Allergy

While most people don't want to weigh and measure their food for life, I strongly recommend it to my weight loss clients.  A few weeks of measuring and then eyeballing a serving of food (3/4 cup of breakfast cereal for example) can help with the portion distortion that can sabotage a weight achievement program.  Pick up an inexpensive food scale at a housewares store.  Purchase a complete set of measuring cups and spoons.  Then, measure your commonly eaten foods for at least a week.  You will probably be surprised at the difference between a labeled serving and the amount that you have grown used to.

Here are some helpful tips to shrink-wrap your servings:

- A cup of fruit should be no larger than your fist
- One ounce of meat or cheese is about the same as the size of your thumb from base to tip to base
- Three ounces of meat, fish or poultry (a normal serving) is about the size as your palm
- One to two ounces of nuts equals your cupped hand
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Katie Mulligan
Allergy
Use smaller plates, bowls and cups and make half your plate fruits and vegetables.  This will automatically force you to eat smaller portions.
A great way to control portion sizes is to use the 'plate method'.  The plate method illustrates that a typical plate should be 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 carbohydrate or starch.  This method serves as a simplistic tool to judge portion sizes of different macronutrients.  When eating out, it is helpful to request a 'to-go' box prior to eating to ensure that 1/2 of the meal gets reserved for a later time. 

Portion your food about the same size as some common body parts. Total amount of a serving of meat daily should be about the size of your palm. A fat serving such as olive oil, butter or salad dressing should be about the size of your thumb. Starchy foods such as potatoes, fruit and grains can be estimated to be about the size of your fist. Eat vegetables low in calories and high in fiber and nutrients, without added fat, sugar and salt in unlimited amounts.

Dede Bonner
Allergy

The Muppets’ Miss Piggy once said, “Never eat more than you can lift.” Portion size has a way of creeping up. We’re influenced by a fast-food culture where more food equals better value. Time to get “unsupersized.”

As a registered dietitian in Virginia, Peggy Jensen advises, “People spend a lot of time worrying about what they eat but not enough time thinking about how much they eat.” If you eat half of your normal amounts, you can cut your calories by half without radically changing your favorite foods.

Here are some other time-tested tips. Eat just half a sandwich or half a bowl of ice cream. Chew slowly to let your stomach register it is full. Use smaller plates (salad-size) to downsize dinner portions. Buy snacks in smaller bags so you’ll stop sooner. Keep second helpings out of sight. Remember the recommended serving sizes. For example, three ounces of meat is the size of a deck of cards, and a cup of potatoes looks like a tennis ball.

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Here are some easy tips to understand portion sizes for weight loss. A cup of fruit should be no larger than your fist.  One ounce of meat or cheese is about the same as the size of your thumb from base to tip to base. Three ounces of meat, fish or poultry (a normal serving) is about the size of your palm. One to two ounces of nuts equals your cupped hand.

To shrink your portions at mealtime, try serving your meal on salad plates and pack away the large dinner plates. Store snack foods in tiny sandwich bags so you are sure you’re eating no more than one portion.

When ordering out at restaurants, share your entrée with your guest. Ask for a kid’s meal or small size -- not the super size portion. Fill up on fresh green salads, whole fruits with the skin, and colorful vegetables instead of high fat foods, breads, pasta, and desserts.

Continue Learning about Portion Control

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.