Learn how to estimate portion sizes using serving sizes on food labels
No matter how nutritious a food is, you still need to control the portion size to make it part of a portion size balanced diet. Or as the saying goes, too much of a good thing is not always good! The same holds true in reverse – a little bit of (almost) anything won’t kill you.
Knowing the amounts for everything you eat is your ticket to knowing things like how many calories you are consuming – an essential factor in weight control – and how many of the recommended servings you’ve had from each food group – a key to following the Dietary Guidelines. So as important as it is to your health to select the right foods to eat, it is equally important to know how to dish them out.
First some background.
The “serving size” that appears on the Nutrition Facts panel of a food label is based on government regulations established for food manufacturers. The intent was to have similar foods use the same serving size for their nutrition information so it would be easier for consumers to compare products.
It does not mean that it is the suggested amount to eat, although the government did base them on the average amount of each food usually eaten at one time.
The “portion size” is the amount you actually eat of a given food or beverage. So if you take a bit more or less than the serving size listed on a food label, that is your portion. The same is true when eating in a restaurant. They can dish it out anyway they want, but you get to decide how much of it you eat.
If you want to know how much you eat, you need to learn the basics about serving sizes so you can better estimate your portion sizes. Follow these Six Steps to get it right.
Six Steps to Sizing Up What You Eat
- Determine the capacity of the cups and bowls you normally use at home by filling them with water then transferring the water to a measuring cup. Measure the diameter of the plates with a ruler.
- Use measuring cups and spoons or a food scale for one week to measure and/or weigh everything you eat at home using the serving sizes given on the food labels to see what those amounts look like.
- Put the measured servings in the cups, bowls and plates you normally use to see how much space each food occupies relative to the size of the container.
- Compare the measured amounts of each food to a common object to create a visual reminder of each serving size. Common examples are to compare the amount to the size of a computer mouse, DVD, lipstick, bar of soap, golf ball, dollar bill or palm of your hand.
- Look at the cups, bowls and plates when you eat out to see if they are bigger or smaller than the ones you use at home.
- Estimate the total amount of each food served to you when eating out so you can decide how much more or less that is from the measured serving sizes.
Knowing how much you eat matters for a healthy diet and healthy body weight. What have you got to lose?