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Perfecting Portion Control: Using Visual Cues

The jumbo muffins you're used to seeing might be more than 3 servings!

The jumbo muffins you’re used to seeing might be more than 3 servings!

This may not be new information for you, but still, it needs to be said: when it comes to weight loss, PORTION SIZES MATTER. You know that you need to keep your calories under control and to do this, you can’t go overboard on the portions; but measuring them out can seem tedious and unrealistic. Plus, there’s no way you’re going to carry around a set of measuring cups and spoons and a food scale with you wherever you go, so how do you know what 3 ounces of meat looks like without actually weighing it? The answer: visual cues.

When you compare your foods to items that you’re used to seeing and holding, it makes it easier to determine what constitutes a single portion. Sure, eyeballing it isn’t as accurate as whipping out a food scale and measuring every half an ounce, but it’s an effective way to keep you on track.


A lot of people think they need to supplement with protein, but the truth is, most Americans get way more than enough every day. A proper single portion of meat is just 3 ounces – about the size of a deck of cards or a standard smart phone. This may come as a shock since many restaurants serve a slab of steak that’s closer to the size of your head than your phone.

Nuts can be a great snack that help fill you up and provide healthy fats, but they are rich in calories, so overdoing it can sabotage your weight loss efforts. If you snack on nuts, eat only the amount that would fit into a standard size shot glass. A single portion of nut butters – like almond, peanut, or cashew – should be the size of a golf ball or a wine cork.

Starches and Grains

If you think the fluffy bagels and enormous muffins that you see on your bakery’s shelves are a single serving, you are mistaken. Of course, it’s not your fault. Portions have gotten so out of control that these over-sized bakery items have become the norm. Instead of assuming one muffin means one serving, picture this: a bagel portion should look like a regular size can of tuna; a pancake should be the size of a CD; and a muffin should be the size of a hockey puck. The amount of cereal in your bowl should be the size of a baseball and your rice or pasta side dish should be the size of a tennis ball.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits are rich in many vitamins and minerals so they are an essential part of your diet, but they are also a source of sugar and too much of a good thing can be a bad thing when it comes to weight loss. When consuming fruit, keep your portion to about the size of a tennis ball. Although it’s not really necessary to measure out vegetable portions since they are low in calories and high in fiber and other beneficial nutrients, they are still worth a mention. A portion of cooked vegetables should be the size of a baseball and a portion of raw vegetables should be the size of two baseballs.


Fats have gotten a bad rap because they are high in calories and can pack on pounds when eaten in excess; however, healthy fats, like olive oil and avocado, are a crucial part of a healthy fat. Keep your portions in check by picturing two stacked dice or a poker chip when serving yourself a fat source.

Although visual cues make estimating portion sizes a lot easier, it can take some getting used to. Help yourself out by making a “cheat sheet” that you keep in your purse or wallet at all times. Write down the foods you tend to eat a lot and what common items represent their ideal serving size. Once you do this regularly, it will become second nature and you won’t even need that cheat sheet anymore.

By admin

September 1, 2014

Nutrition, Health Tips