Do you remember when our vehicles had no cup holder? Well, unless you count the dash. Now, not only are cup holders standard, to accommodate larger drink sizes, the car manufacturers have increased the size of the cup holder over time. Why does that matter? It’s just one example of how portion sizes have changed. Portions began increasing in the 70’s. Compare a serving of fries in the 50’s at 2 ounces to today at 4 to 6 ounces.
Over the past couple decades the average calories consumed per day has increased from around 1,850 to around 2,000. If you look at no other factor except calories, an extra 150 calories per day turns out to be slightly more than 1 pound of weight gained per month. You can do the math from there.
We just don’t tend to be that good at judging the amount of food we eat. If 1 regular slice of bread (think the size of Wonder bread) is 1 serving, 1 slice of large deli bread is 2 servings and 1 hoagie roll is 3 servings. If you have been considering 1 hoagie roll = 1 serving of bread, you can see the ‘innocent’ mistake often made regarding how much we eat. That hoagie is going to have about 3 times the calories (and carbs) of a regular size slice of bread. Understand, this does not mean that you shouldn’t eat a hoagie. The point here is that we really don’t know how much we’re eating.
If you find yourself in this boat, you may be joining the 80% of people surveyed who thought the meals they eat at home are the same size or smaller than they used to be. Even trained dietitians have a tendency to underestimate calories and fat in foods. Guilty as charged!
As you can see, the amount people eat is usually more than is intended or needed.
Weighing or measuring your food is the most accurate way to determine food amounts. But, let’s be real. We need an easier tool. Below is a visual help for estimating a single portion size. The idea here is to be aware of a portion so that you can make a more thoughtful choice regarding how many portions you’ll have.
- 1 cup potatoes, rice, pasta – is a tennis ball
- 1 cup cereal – is a fist
- 1 piece cornbread – is a bar of soap
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter – is a Ping-Pong ball
- 3 ounces cooked meat, fish, poultry – is palm of the hand, deck of cards
- 1 1/2 ounces cheese – is a 9-volt battery
- 1 cup ice cream – is a baseball
- 1 ounce nuts or small candies – is one handful
- 1 ounce chips or pretzels – is two handfuls
- 1 teaspoon butter – is a fingertip
- 3/4 cup juice – is a small Styrofoam cup
- 1/2 cup broccoli – is a light bulb
- 1/4 cup raisins – is one large egg
So, your job is to just pay attention. Do not over think this. When you’re faced with the choice of a single or double patty hamburger – one palm of the hand or two – you might decide on a single. When you’re serving yourself broccoli at dinner, you might choose two light bulbs instead of one (just a suggestion). As for that handful of almonds, you’re on your own.