Portion Control: Easy Visual Tricks

The unfortunate truth is that you can spend hours on the treadmill and still not lose a pound if you do not carefully watch your calorie intake. There are a ton of gadgets on the market to help make portion control easier, from simple measuring cups and spoons to high-tech scales and, my favorite, the spaghetti measure. However, as handy as these tools are in the kitchen, they create a lot of clutter and are zero help when you are out to eat or not the one cooking -- unless, of course, you plan on walking around with all your tools in your trench coat Mr. Gadget-style, but that's just weird.

Because we are so terrible at keeping track of how much we eat and when we are full, using visual cues to determine proper portion size can be a great way to keep your diet on track without permanently attaching yourself to measuring devices. One serving of meat is three ounces, so aim for the size and thickness of a deck of playing cards or a piece that could easily fit into the palm of your hand. Because fish is typically thinner than its land based counterparts, one three-ounce serving will roughly be the size and thickness of a checkbook. To make a perfectly portioned meal, add a baked potato to your protein that is the size of a computer mouse or a mashed-potato mound the size of about half an apple, along with a cup of veggies about the size of a baseball.

For spaghetti night without one of those nifty measuring devices, aim for a bunch of dry spaghetti that has the diameter of a quarter or cooked pasta equal in size to a tennis ball. Other helpful visual cues for portion control are comparing one serving of salad dressing to the volume of a ping-pong ball, one serving of cheese to a pair of dice, one teaspoon of oil to the tip of your thumb and one pancake at the proper serving of about the size of a CD. Nuts are a great, healthy snack but can easily become an enemy when consumed in large portions. A handful should get you the one one-serving size, but if you want to go by numbers 14 shelled walnut halves, 24 shelled almonds, 16 cashews, 28 peanuts or 45 pistachios are equal to one serving. For everything else, one cup is roughly equivalent to the size of a baseball, while half a cup is about the size of the bulb end of a light bulb.

If you're still having trouble with portions, give yourself less space to pile the food with a 10-inch as opposed to 12-inch plate, and aim for a ratio of half veggies, a quarter meat and a quarter starch.

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Kristen Majewski
Contact: Kristen Majewski