Managing portions and guesstimating serving sizes is integral to weight loss success.
How much you eat is as important as what you eat, when it comes to weight loss.
You've probably heard that we Americans are suffering from serious portion distortion.
I remember how shocked I was more than 20 years ago, when as a new Weight Watchers member, I was introduced to proper portion and serving sizes.
I had no idea until then, just how oversized my portions and serving sizes of cereal and orange juice were, not to mention everything else I ate all day.
Portion sizes have grown dramatically over the last several decades, which explains (at least partially) why our waistlines are getting bigger and obesity is on the rise.
To see for yourself check out this interesting article on portions and serving sizes entitled, Portions Then & Now, at Divine Caroline.
The USDA tells us we should have so many "servings" from the various food groups each day.
But what exactly is a "serving?"
This brief video helps show proper portions using your hands
Portions and Serving Sizes Definitions
Portion sizes (especially those served at restaurants) are so out of control these days that it's a good idea to review what counts as one "serving" from the different food groups.
For example, one large bagel can weigh as much as 4 ounces.
According to the USDA, a serving of bread is 1 ounce, which means that a 4 ounce bagel counts as 4 servings of bread!
So, it's important to keep these servings in mind as you eat your way through your day:
Grains & Starches Portions and Serving Sizes
One serving of starchy food is:
- 1 slice of bread
- ½ cup cooked grain like rice, oats or pasta
- ¾ cup cold cereal
- 1 medium potato (about the size of a computer mouse)
- ½ cup corn
Women trying to lose weight should shoot for 4—6 servings per day; men who want to lose weight should aim for 6—9.
Fruits & Vegetables Portions and Serving Sizes
One serving of vegetables is:
- ½ cup cooked vegetables
- 1 cup raw leafy greens (like lettuce)
- ¾ cup vegetable juice
One serving of fruit is:
- 1 medium fruit (like an apple or orange)
- ½ banana
- 1 cup melon or fresh berries
- ¾ cup fruit juice
- ¼ cup dried fruit
Women should enjoy at least 2 fruit servings and 3 vegetable servings a day, while men should have at least 3 servings of fruit and 4 of vegetables.
Protein & Dairy Portions and Servings
One serving of protein is:
- 1 ounce meat, poultry, or fish
- 1 egg
- ½ cup beans, tofu, or tempeh
- ⅓ cup nuts
- 2 tablespoons of nut butter
One serving of dairy is:
- 1 cup milk or yogurt
- ½ cup cottage cheese
- 1-½ ounces cheese
For women, 4—8 servings of protein and 2—3 servings of dairy are a good target; men can increase protein to 7—12 servings.
Fats & Oils Portions and Serving Sizes
One serving of fats and oils is:
- 2 teaspoons of oil, butter, margarine, or mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons of regular salad dressing
- tablespoons of reduced-fat dressing
Women should aim for 4—8 servings per day; men, 9—12.
It's possible to get back to reasonable sized portions and you don't need measuring cups and scales to accomplish it.
Just use everyday objects as portion size reminders.
Here are some examples:
Sizing Up Serving Sizes with Visual Cues
- Your fist is about the same size as one cup of fruit or pasta
- Your thumb (tip to base) is the size of one ounce of meat or cheese
- Your palm (minus fingers) or a deck of cards equals three ounces of meat, fish, or poultry
- Your cupped hand equals one to two ounces of nuts or pretzels
- A computer mouse is about the right size for a baked potato or side dish such as cole slaw
Portions Then & Now - A great article with visuals depicting just how much our portions have grown the past 20 years at Divine Caroline
The Portion Distortion Guide - A list of serving sizes found at SparkPeople
Making Sense of Portion Sizes - found at Meals Matter
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