Correct Portion Sizes
The portion size that you are used to eating may be equal to two or three standard servings. Take a look at the Nutrition Facts for macaroni and cheese. The serving size is 1 cup, but the package actually has 2 cups of this food product. If you eat the entire package, you are eating two servings of macaroni and cheese—and double the calories, fat, and other nutrients in a standard serving.
To see how many servings a package has, check the “servings per container” listed on its Nutrition Facts. You may be surprised to find that small containers often have more than one serving inside.
Learning to recognize standard serving sizes can help you judge how much you are eating. When cooking at home, look at the serving sizes listed on the Nutrition Facts for the packaged food products you eat. Use measuring cups and spoons to put the suggested serving size on your plate before you start eating. This will help you see what one standard serving of that food looks like compared to how much you normally eat.
It may also help to compare serving sizes to everyday objects. For example, 1/4 cup of raisins is about the size of a large egg. Three ounces of meat or poultry is about the size of a deck of cards. See other serving size comparisons below. (Keep in mind that these size comparisons are approximations.)
1 cup of cereal = a fist
1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or potato = 1/2 baseball
1 baked potato = a fist
1 medium fruit = a baseball
1/2 cup of fresh fruit = 1/2 baseball
2 tablespoons of peanut butter = a ping-pong ball
Another way to keep track of your portions is to use a food diary. Keeping track of when, what, how much, where, and why you eat can help you be aware of the amount of food you are eating and the times you tend to eat too much. A food diary can be kept in a notebook, on your cell phone, or online. For instance, you can track your nutritional and physical activity status using the MyPyramid Tracker.
If you tend to eat when you are not hungry, try doing something else, like taking a break to walk around the block or calling a friend, instead of eating. You could also try doing something with your hands, such as knitting, drawing, or playing cards. If the craving hits you while you are at work, try drinking water or herbal tea without sugar.
Through your diary, you can become aware of the times and reasons you eat too much, which can help as you try to make different choices in the future.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
National Institutes of Health
NIH Publication No. 09–5287