Easy Ways to Keep Your Portions Healthy
Practical tips to make portion control simple.
Many Americans need a portion-size intervention. Somehow, over the past
decade or so, we seem to have lost our ability to judge what a reasonable
serving size is.
It doesn't help that the servings at restaurants and fast-food chains tend
to be on steroids. Everywhere we go, it seems, we're being given larger
portions. And research suggests that the more food people have in front of
them, the more they will eat.
So how do we wean ourselves from supersized servings and train ourselves to
eat reasonable amounts? Sure, you could weigh and measure everything. But a
more convenient way is to use familiar objects to help yourself gauge how much
you're eating, and to buy products that do the portion control for you.
Let's start with an object you always have with you -- your hand. Lisa
Young, PhD, RD, author of The Portion Teller, loves to use the
"handy" method. According to Young, 3 ounces of meat is about the size
of your open palm, and a cup of rice the size of your fist. A shot glass is
another convenient portioning tool. Since we often overdo salad dressing, Young
suggests thinking of a shot glass to estimate what 2 tablespoons of dressing
Young has more practical portioning tips for eating in restaurants, one of
the most dangerous environments for portion control. In fact, she says, it's as
easy as 1-2-3:
1. Don't go to the restaurant starving.
2. Share your meal or entrée with a companion, and order extra salads so both
of you get something green.
3. Or, take home a doggie bag and enjoy the rest of the meal the next
When you're cooking at home, there are several portioning tools you can use,
many of which you probably already have in your kitchen. And there are certain
food products and packages that lend themselves to portion control.
These items will help you portion your food into 1/2-cup to 3/4-cup
- Snack-size baggies hold about 1 cup fully packed, and
about 3/4 cup loosely packed. This is a good size for portioning crackers,
nuts, pretzels, baked chips, dried fruit, turkey jerky, and cereal.
- Foil cupcake liners hold about 1/3 cup -- perfect for
portioning baked goods and snack items.
- Mini foil pie pans are perfect for portioning side dishes
- Large muffin cups (those that have about 6 cups per pan)
will hold about 3/4 cup. That's just the right size for baking individual
portions of entrees like quiche, shepherd's pie, chili cornbread casserole,
- A ladle holds about 1/2 cup of liquid, great for
portioning things like stew, chili, pasta and pasta sauce, and steamed