Portion Distortion

23 May

Hi everyone! I hope you had a great weekend! There was a tie in the “Which Post Do You Want Next?” poll, so I’ll do them all eventually, but I’m going to start with portions.

We’ve totally lost sight of appropriate portions. Case in point: Olive Garden. Who doesn’t love their bottomless bowls of salad and breadsticks, their rich pasta, and “authentic” atmosphere? The food may be delicious, but the portions are out of control. The dinner portion of the Chicken Alfredo is a whopping 1,440 calories! That’s almost a days worth of calories for most people. Add in a few breadsticks at 150 calories a pop and a couple helpings of that endless supply of 350 calorie salad and you are likely to top out at almost 2,500 calories in one sitting. I have a lot of restaurant tips, but we-ll save those for another day 🙂

Check out this site to see how much our portion sizes have increased over the past 20 years.

Because our food culture has made it waaaay too easy for us to overindulge, monitoring how much we eat is more important than ever. Even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, knowing correct portion sizes and calorie counts helps you stay on track and stay healthy. First, I’ll go over correct serving sizes for various food groups and some handy visuals to make estimation easier.

Fruits & Vegetables: 1 cup = size of a baseball

Baked Potato = size of a computer mouse

Hard Cheese: 1.5 ounces = 3 dice

Bagel: 3-4 in. diameter = size of a 6 ounce can of tuna

Cooked Pasta: 1 cup = size of a baseball

Cooked Rice: 1/2 cup = size of a baseball

Bread: 1 slice = size of a cassette tape

Nuts: 1/4 cup = size of a golfball

Meat and Poultry: 3 ounces = size of a deck of cards

Fish: 3 ounces = size of a checkbook

Lunchmeat: 1 ounce = size of a compact disk

Butter, Margarine, Mayo, and Salad Dressing: 1 TBSP = size of a poker chip

Brownie: 2 in. square = box of dental floss

Cake: 1 slice = size of a deck of cards

Chocolate: 1 ounce = box of dental floss

Cookie: size of two poker chips

Ice Cream: 1/2 cup = size of a lightbulb

These ballpark estimations can help you get in touch with appropriate serving sizes of various foods. They are also very handy for calorie estimation. Here are a few tip about portion control…

1. Ideally, we would all use measuring cups and food scales to portion our food. Although I do find these tools to be very useful when dishing out cereal, peanut butter, pasta, and grains (things I tend to over-indulge in), it isn’t always practical to weigh and measure. This is where the visual comparisons come in. Eyeball your bowl of pasta and if it looks like two baseballs-worth, then multiply the calories x2. Consider switching to 1 baseball-worth of pasta and 1 baseball-worth of veggies to reduce calories. 

2. Get aquatinted with your dishes. Get out your measuring cups and measure the amount of food or drink your dishes hold. This will make it easier to eyeball 1 serving of milk or 1 serving of soup.  

3. Last but not least, “Serving sizes” aren’t one size fits all. On one day you might want a little more than a golfball-worth of nuts, on another day you might want a little less. These are just guidelines to help you get in touch with serving sizes and more accurately estimate calories. The very best way to keep your portions under control and your health in check is to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Getting in touch with your hunger and satiety cues takes practice, patience, and sometimes a little soul-searching. You have to figure out how much you’re eating, how much you should be eating, why you eat what/when/how much you eat, and how to listen to your body. More on that next time…

This blog is a very new project and I am still working on its format. In a couple weeks I’m hoping to start posting pictures and recipes of some of my meals. I would also like to start posting some of my workouts. Sound good? Any opinions? Please, send your suggestions my way!

Thanks for reading 🙂


3 Responses to “Portion Distortion”

  1. Cara May 24, 2010 at 12:01 am #

    yes post food
    yes post workouts
    yes I love you!

  2. Mom May 24, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    thanks for the reminder!!!


  1. Date Night + Forks Over Knives | Running on Sunshine - June 5, 2011

    […] This one is a toughy in our current food climate. As a society we have completely lost sight of appropriate portion sizes. We are so used to being served a platter of pasta at restaurants, that the 1-cup appropriate pasta serving seems tiny. This is one of the ideas behind the new plate that has replaced the Food Guide Pyramid. It gives people a visual of appropriate food portions in relation to other food groups. It is similar to the strategy I use. I always fill at least half my plate with fruits and vegetables. I’ll talk more in depth about the new plate in an upcoming post. For a rundown on portion sizes, check out this post. […]

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