Can you estimate a serving size? I can’t. And the more I learn, the more I realize I’m not alone in my struggle with portion recognition.
Compared to our grandparents’ days, our plates have grown larger, restaurant meals are big enough to nourish multiple people, and bottled beverages consist of more than one serving. Yet we still finish everything we’re served.
I've learned that it’s okay to be a member of the clean-plate club, as long as I'm not overeating. Here are some of the ways I’m working on controlling my portions:
1. Comparing serving sizes. Over the years I’ve heard about comparing standard serving sizes to everyday items, and lately when I eat out or hit a buffet with my family I’ve been using this trick. For example, the “size equivalency” of a 3-ounce serving of fish or beef is comparable to a deck of cards, an ounce of cheese is the size of two dominos, and a 1/2 cup of rice should fit inside a cupcake wrapper. While my mind’s deck of cards and cupcake wrapper might be larger than the real thing, I figure that making an effort while eating out is still better than not caring and eating however much I want.
RELATED: Try this yourself with our guide to simple tricks to estimate serving sizes.
2. Reading the package. In the past (meaning a few weeks ago), I snacked on walnuts and almonds right out of the bag as if they were potato chips. Lauren, my dietitian, warned me to be careful of my nut consumption because their high calories are an easy way to sabotage my hard work. Today I check the label and count or measure out the serving size of anything that comes in a package, including baby carrots.
3. Weighing food. I bought a kitchen scale a couple of years ago and I’m thankful I did. Cheese is one of my downfalls, but with this handy gadget I discovered that when I guess how much cheese to eat, I actually underestimate the serving size, which means I can have a little more than I thought! However, I do tend to overestimate the serving size of meat, so I always use the scale for that.
4. Eating off of smaller plates. My mom recently gave me some cute 7-inch plates that I have since used to replace my family’s large 12-inch plates. I’ve noticed that I haven’t been putting nearly as much food on my plate as I was before the swap, and now I end my meals feeling comfortable, rather than stuffed. In fact, the entire family is eating less.
RELATED: Plates aren't the only measure-free way to keep your noshing in check. Use these five simple tips to eat less.
5. Using measuring spoons. Eating salads every day for lunch is something I have always done. But there is one little detail that I tend to overdo: salad dressing. My new strategy is to measure my dressing with measuring spoons, but that’s not all. I put the salad and dressing in a lidded container and shake it up so the dressing spreads evenly and I’m not temped to add another drizzle halfway through my meal.
Do you have a trick for keeping your portion sizes under control?