As we already know, portion sizes in this country are all out of whack. We think “bigger is better,” or, “we’re getting so much more for the money.” Restaurants these days serve up a meal that could feed a small family. Coffee chains offer a “large” that’s practically the size of my tree stump of a leg. And fast food joints? If they keep adding hamburger patties to their burgers, pretty soon people will have to unhinge their jaw before taking a bite.
So if we’re surrounded by ridiculous amounts of food, how are we to know what a proper portion size actually is?
More often than not, experts compare the amount of food we’re supposed to be serving ourselves with familiar objects (e.g., baseballs, dice, fists, etc.). However, when I began searching for the most accurate portion sizes, they were all over the place!
Some nutritional websites said a 1 cup serving was about the size of a baseball and others were saying that was more of a 1/2 cup serving. One site said a serving of butter was the size of a postage stamp, but it didn’t specify how thick the pat of butter should be! And don’t even get me started on comparing the amount of food to my fist, my palm or my finger. I have munchkin sized hands! I’d be starving myself if I solely based how much food I consumed by the size of my meathook.
Below you’ll find a list compiled of sample foods and their comparisons of what I believe to be most accurate.
- 1 tsp. of olive oil- a wine cork cut in half
- 2 tbsp of peanut butter or cream cheese- a ping pong ball
- 1/4 cup dried fruit- a golf ball
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese- a baseball cut in half
- 3/4 cup cereal- a tennis ball
- 1 cup vegetables- a baseball
- 1 oz of cheese- six dice
- 3 oz of meat, poultry or fish- a deck of card
- 5 oz baked potato- a computer mouse
Now if you are looking to be more exact, like right on the money, I suggest you get yourself a food scale. I have the Taylor Stainless Food Scale and I absolutely love it. I got it as a wedding gift and it is one of the most used, yet least expensive presents we received. When buying a food scale, you want to look for one that’s digital and that it measures in ounces, grams, pounds as well as milliliters. Also, make sure it includes the tare feature, which means you can place a bowl on the scale, push a button and it resets back to zero. Then it only shows the weight of the food you put in the bowl.
This is my preferred method of measuring for a few reasons:
1) Food scales can be more accurate than using measuring cups.
Let me give you an example. Today I wanted a 1/4 cup or 2 ounce serving of dried apricots. When the nutrition facts on the back of the apricot bag says a single serving is “1/4 cup,” how compact should you fill the measuring cup? You could a) loosely pile the fruit into the cup until it reaches the top, b) shove the cup so full that you have to press the pile down a few times with the heel of your hand so that a few apricots don’t fall out, or c) strategically place the fruit in, like you’re putting a puzzle together, until the cup is air tight.
And another thing. When I looked at the back of the bag it said 1/4 cup or 40 grams! FORTY!!! A typical 1/4 cup or 2 ounce serving is 56 grams! So even if you measured by loosely piling the apricots in the cup (which I never used to do…I’d cram the sucker so full), chances are you’d still be over on the serving size. How frustrating!
So this is when your handy dandy scale comes in. Simply place an empty bowl on the scale, press the tare button so it resets back to zero, and then in go the apricots until the scale reads 40 grams.
2) It is faster to measure your food on a scale.
It’s dinnertime! Instead of measuring each dish out with a measuring utensil and then putting it on the plate, all you have to do is place your plate on the scale, and serve the food right onto it. Make sure to use the tare feature after the plate goes down and in between serving each food.
3) Clean up is a breeze.
You don’t have to wash your measuring utensils after every time you figure our your portion sizes.
If measuring cups are more your cup of tea, that’s awesome. This is what works best for you!
I recommend a set that includes a 2/3 cup and a 3/4 cup such as Architec® Purelast Measuring Cups (Set of 6). These are great because the cups are made of recycled bamboo plant fibers, they’re dishwasher safe and BPA-free! A terrific measuring spoon set is the Food Network Measuring Spoon Set. In addition to the standard sizes, it also has an 1/8 tsp. along with a 1/2 Tablespoon. I like these especially well because the measurements are etched in the handle instead of printed on so they won’t eventually come off.
***30 Day Fitness Challenge: Day 5- Alright you guys, we are almost done with the first week of our challenge. How are you feeling? Excited? Motivated? A little discouraged? Let me know your thoughts. I’ll be writing more about the first week of my experience on Monday.
Food Network, (n.d.). Tips for Perfect Portion Sizes. [online] Available at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/healthy/photos/tips-for-portion-control.html [Accessed 15 Jan. 2015].
Schuster, E. (1997). Making Sense of Portion Sizes. [online] Cleveland Clinic. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/healthy_living/Making_Sense_of_Portion_Sizes [Accessed 15 Jan. 2015].