Everyone knows that a healthy diet and adequate exercise are two major keys to losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And, most of us know what to eat (whether we are doing it or not) in order to have a more balanced and nutritious diet. However, how much to eat seems to be a different obstacle for many. I have had clients tell me what they eat and then explain how frustrated they are if they are not seeing results despite their efforts to eat healthy and exercise regularly. When I ask them “How much of that do you eat?” whether it be a healthy or unhealthy item, I often get an expression of uncertainty.

This is no surprise since most of us aren’t actually weighing our portions or pouring them into measuring cups. The restaurant industry is certainly not helping this regard since their portions are often two or three times the necessary size. Therefore, many of us have been programmed to think we need more than we actually do, and this clearly results in a struggle to lose weight and has lead our country and many parts of the world to have an obesity problem.

So how do we control these sizes without becoming obsessed with measuring every little iota of food? It isn’t really as difficult as you might think. You can easily use household items to eyeball your way into more precise and nutritionally accurate portion sizes. Here are some handy examples:

  • A serving of meat:  A deck of cards which equates between 3 to 4 ounces. The protein packed meat is a great way to stay full on this amount.
  • One cup serving of pasta or rice: A tennis ball. It is a better idea to choose whole wheat of both varieties which will keep you full due to fiber content.
  • Two tablespoons of peanut butter: A ping pong ball. I know this might not seem like much, but peanut butter is extremely rich and high in fat so a little goes a long way.
  • Half a cup of veggies: A baseball. Although you can almost not have too much of these guys, this size represents one serving. Be aware of adding too much butter or fatty sauces to these. Herbs and spices add awesome flavor to veggies without extra calories.
  • ¼ cup of Dried fruit: A large egg. These foods sure are handy but can be deceiving in large quantities since they carry about 4 or 5 times the calories by weight (since they have no water).
  • A baked potato: A computer mouse. Potatoes aren’t as bad as you may have been led to believe. They are high in potassium and vitamins. The true culprits are the enormous sized taters and the added calories and fat from the potato bar!
  • A pancake: A compact disc (what is that?…haha). One serving of a flapjack should be this size. Add a small amount of reduced sugar syrup or jam and go for whole wheat mix.
  • One ounce of cheese: Six dice. Again, this may not seem like much but as with the peanut butter a little goes a long way. Shoot for white varieties such as brie and provolone over orange cheeses.
  • A serving of fish: A checkbook. This equates to three or four ounces, and is a great way to add protein and variety to your diet. Go for a rub vs. a marinade to save many calories!
  • One teaspoon of butter or oil: Half the width of your thumb. I know this one is pretty relative so if you are a tall person or have really long fingers, plan for less!

Hopefully these tips are helpful for you to judge your sizes and see where you are going overboard. The never ending pasta bowl may seem like a good deal but, the never ending waistline truly isn’t a good deal.

One more tip: You may want to practice them at home….I am not sure how your waiter would feel if you pulled out your dice, computer mouse, and baseball when your food arrives!