One of my favorite diet quotes is from the late Oscar-winning writer, actor and director Orson Welles, who apparently wrestled with the concept of proper portion control: “My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people there.”
A serving of meat may be 3 to 4 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards, but the portion of steak on your plate can be two decks of cards, depending on your total caloric needs.
Size matters. If weight control is your goal, then portion control is the key. According to a survey done by the Calorie Control Council, 84 percent of dieters say they eat smaller portions of their favorite foods to control their weight. But, what does “portion control” mean anyway? Are we doomed to a life of postage-stamp-size servings, forever banned from buffets?
The terms “portion” and “serving” don’t mean the same thing.
A “portion” is the amount you choose for meals or snacks — such as a platter of ribs or big tumbler of orange juice. In comparison, a “serving” is the amount nutrition experts recommend we eat— such as 3 to 4 ounces of meat or 6 ounces of fruit juice.
Controlling portions starts with understanding how many servings of each kind of food you should have a day based on your total caloric needs.
● Did you know that the typical 5-ounce deli bagel contains about the same calories as five slices of bread? If you know you should be eating only six to nine (1-ounce) servings of grains per day, then you can see that the bagel is taking a big bite out of your budget. Your portion of pasta at a restaurant may be three cups of linguine piled on one plate, but that counts as six grain servings.
● You can eat more than one serving. A serving of meat may be 3 to 4 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards, but the portion of steak on your plate can be two decks of cards, depending on your total caloric needs. The U.S. dietary guidelines recommend healthy adults consume a minimum of 6 ounces of meat or other protein food per day.
● Cooked weights may be lower than ounces quoted on the menu. This is good news. Restaurants list the raw weight of meats. An 8-ounce filet mignon will shrink when grilled, often by 25 percent, so the cooked portion is actually 6 ounces.
● You get more of some foods than others per serving, so learn about equivalents to pump up the volume.
One grain serving: 3/4 cup pretzels vs. five mini rice cakes vs. three cups plain popcorn
One fruit serving: 1/4 cup dried fruit vs. 6 ounces juice vs. one cup fresh fruit
One vegetable serving: 1/2 cup green peas vs. one cup cooked broccoli vs. two cups raw cucumber
One dairy serving: 1 1/2 ounces hard cheese vs. 4 ounces low-fat cottage cheese vs. 8 ounces low-fat yogurt
One meat serving: 3 ounces of chicken equals 6 ounces of cooked lentils
● Picture this. To judge measurements, keep these shapes in mind.
Meat or poultry: 3 ounces equals a deck of cards.
Pasta or rice, cooked: one cup equals a baseball.
Hard cheese: 1 ounce equals four cubes the size of dice.
Pancake/waffle: 4-inch diameter equals a CD.
Potato or sweet potato: one potato equals a computer mouse.
Nuts, dried fruit, granola: 1/4 cup equals a golf ball.
Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at [email protected]
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