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Fitness Nutrition Forums

Do You Know How Much You're Eating?

Think you're eating a "normal" portion when eating out? Think again.

Most people rely on the guide at restaurants or take-out places to determine our portions. What they serve us must be what a single portion is, right? Wrong! In the U.S. we've gotten accustomed to seeing full plates and large portions. We want more for our money and that includes the food we are served. And now, many of us truly don't understand why we're gaining weight.

What is a portion?

To give you an idea of how serving sizes have changed, look at a comparison of foods served in the 1980s vs today. A regular turkey sandwich was about 320 calories. Today, we've made it bigger and that sandwich can be up to 820 calories. A regular serving of fries was 210 calories and now it's 610 calories. This has become the new norm and makes it very challenging to figure out how much you should actually be eating.

Your personal portion sizes — those needed to reach and maintain a healthy weight — may be different than other men or women your age. Your calorie needs, and therefore your portions, are determined by factors such as gender, age, weight, health, medications, and activity level. So, where do you start?

Measure or Eyeball It

Ideally, you can measure out your food. Read the labels, determine how much of that food you need and then measure it out using a food scale or measuring spoons and cups. This is the most accurate way to determine how much you're eating but now always feasible.

However, with practice, you can become proficient at eyeballing, or estimating your portions. For example, one cup of fluids is about the size of your fist. This is also approximately one cup of salad, veggies or fruit. A handful of noodles or rice is about half a cup. Think a palm-full of these foods. The palm of your hand is also the size of approximately three ounces of chicken, beef or fish. Keep a list handy on your phone or in your wallet so you can accurately determine your portions.

Start Logging

If you really want to reach your goals — whether it be to lose, maintain or even gain weight — you need to know how much you're eating. Begin by keeping a log of what you eat. Measure or use the estimation system to determine your portions. Track for a few days so you can see a trend. Once you understand what you're eating, you can begin adjusting the amounts to reach your goals.

Hire a Professional

If you really want to be accurate and reach your goals in a timely manner, consider hiring a registered dietitian. Their education provides them the insight and tools to help you reach your nutrition goals. They can also help you determine what portion sizes will help you, and develop a plan to help you get there.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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