size matters - portion size, that is

size matters - portion size, that is

Do you know what a portion looks like? Most of us don't; I've written many times about portion sizes having grown out of proportion. (see portion sizes have become gigantic.)

1/4 cup? 1/2 cup? 3 ounces? Eating too big a portion can easily add enough calories to push you over your daily limit, probably without even knowing it. That can be hugely frustrating - you think you're doing everything right, but the weight won't come off..

Take my trail mix example from last month. I know that 1/4 cup of trail mix has approximately 150 calories. But I can easily eat 1 cup of the stuff (or more), which is 600 calories. I've become familiar enough with 1/4 cup of trail mix that I know what it looks like in my hand, how it feels, how much it weighs, and how I'm going to feel after I eat it. I know it'll take the edge off and hold me over until my next meal, but I also know it'll leave me wanting a bit more.

Being that familiar with the portion size of trail mix has saved me from eating tens of thousands of extra calories over the years.

A few nights ago our family had to divide and conquer, so I was left to cook dinner for myself and one of my boys. I made a very simple rice and beans dish, and took the opportunity to take some pictures of portion sizes...

If you're going to keep track of what you eat, especially if you're counting calories, you should get yourself a set of measuring cups.

1/4 cup doesn't sound nearly as small as it looks!

1/2 cup looks and feels like a much better portion. Unfortunately, there are a surprising number of foods which list their portion size as 1/4 cup; eating 1/2 cup of these foods gives you twice the calories.

Back to my trail mix example.. Bunched up, it's about the size of a small handful. Spread out on a plate, I'd take 3 or 4 finger-full scoops to eat a serving.

As for our rice and beans, here's what 420 calories looks like on my plate. Add in some cheese, tomatoes, salsa, and guacamole, and the meal's flavor comes to life for another 200 calories (give or take). However, like my trail mix example above, I could easily eat 2 or 3 of these portions - and wash them down with a Coke or a beer, or two!

Size matters, and it matters a lot. Keep your portion sizes under control, and you'll take a big step towards keeping your calorie intake under control.

-Chris Butterworth