Knowing how to determine appropriate portion sizes is an essential part of any healthy diet. But judging servings can be tricky. Most people tend to eat most or all of the food that is put in front of them. Often that’s too much. Numerous studies on the subject have shown that food consumption increases proportionately with availability.
Our Eyes Determine Our Appetite
As Much as Our Stomach
If Not More So
In other words, our eyes determine our appetite as much as our stomach, if not more so. For example, look at the amount of food people put on their plates when they can help themselves at a buffet. Probably a whole lot more than when they order from the menu. Why? Because what we see is what we eat. By the time our stomach signals that it’s full – in about twenty minutes or so – it may already be too late.
This is especially true for snack food. Mindless munching while working or watching TV can easily lead to binge eating. It doesn’t matter how big a bag of chips or a soda bottle is, most of us are inclined to finish it.
Food manufacturers and restaurateurs know this all too well. “Super-sizing” is routinely advertised as extra value, but the truth is that we all just consume more – simply because we can.
The recommended servings are usually printed on the back of food containers. This information can be helpful if you can be bothered with reading labels. But even these can be quite confusing. Many bags, cans or boxes contain more than one serving and the nutritional values, including calorie- and fat count, must be re-calculated accordingly, which is not always an easy task for unassuming consumers.
Even when you make meals from scratch, it is not necessarily clear how much makes for a “healthy portion”? What is a medium-size potato? How big is a steak supposed to be? How much pasta fits in a cup?
Instead of trying to toss around a bunch of numbers, you may be better served by comparing your portions with everyday items. I think this is an easier way to get your sizing right.
(1) A medium potato is as big (or small) as a computer mouse.
(2) Three ounces of meat equal the size of a deck of cards.
(3) One ounce of chips or pretzels fits in the palm of your hand.
(4) A medium-size bagel is no larger than a hockey puck.
(5) Three ounces of grilled fish are the size of a checkbook.
(6) One cup of pasta is the same size as a tennis ball.
(7) One half cup of cooked rice fits in a cupcake wrapper.
(8) A cup of fruit is about as big as a baseball.
(9) A pancake should be no bigger than a compact disc.
(10) A teaspoon of oil or butter should be no larger than the tip of your thumb.
(11) Two tablespoons of salad dressing fill a golf ball.
(12) An ounce of cheese looks like a pair of dice.
Of course, these are only a few samples to help you determine appropriate portion sizes. Similarly, you can use the size of a baseball to measure the right serving sizes of cereal, popcorn and most vegetable servings. The size of a deck of cards is also appropriate for most poultry and meat dishes. Fish dishes can be served safely in the size of a check book, and hockey pucks are good for measuring biscuits and other pastries. If you like nuts, limit your serving sizes to golf balls. Tennis balls are right for beans and legumes. Compact disc sizes are about right for most lunch meats. Cookies and sweets should be limited to something smaller than what we have among our samples shown above. Think poker chips or one dollar coins.