Lose weight with proper portion control

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Lose weight with proper portion control

Portion control is essential to weight-loss. Learn to adjust your food portions.

Eating sensible food portions (portion control) is essential to weight loss as well as to maintaining a healthy weight. Unfortunately, the importance of portion control is often underestimated. In fact, the trend toward larger food portions gets much of the blame for the growing number of overweight people.

You may think one portion of food is the same as one serving, but that's rarely correct. A serving is a standardized amount of food with specific calorie and nutrient content. Servings usually are defined by common measurements such as cups, ounces or pieces. On the other hand, a portion is the amount of food you choose to eat and is often greater than one serving size. Understanding this distinction can help you learn how to eat the right amount of food.

Sizing up your servings

The first step in portion control is to understand serving sizes, which may be smaller than you think. Use these visualizations to estimate appropriate serving sizes:

  • A medium apple or orange is the size of a tennis ball.
  • A medium potato is the size of a computer mouse.
  • An average bagel is the size of a hockey puck.
  • A cup of fruit is the size of a baseball.
  • Three ounces of meat is the size of a deck of cards.
  • Three ounces of grilled fish is the size of your checkbook.
  • One ounce of cheese is the size of four dice.
  • One teaspoon of peanut butter is the size of the tip of your thumb.

Food-label servings

You often see serving sizes listed on food labels. They aren't a recommendation of how much you should eat, but are simply the amount of food on which the product's nutritional analysis is based. This information allows you to compare the nutritional value of one product with that of another.

Food-label servings are based on the amount of that particular food that people normally eat and are listed using standard household measurements, such as cups, ounces or pieces. Check to see if the amount you normally eat is similar to the serving size on the label. If you eat more, then the number of calories and nutrients you get from that item will be higher. A figure indicating the servings per container also is included so that you can calculate the calories and nutrients in the entire package.

Right-size your portions

If you're finding it difficult to bring your portions in line with recommended servings, try these suggestions:

  • Read food labels to determine serving sizes.
  • Discourage overeating by placing only the appropriate servings of food on dinner plates, rather than put serving bowls on the table.
  • Don't eat second helpings.
  • When eating out, ask for a takeout container. Save part of the meal for another time.
  • Split a meal with your spouse or friend.
  • Don't feel as if you have to clean your plate.

Last Updated: 07/21/2006
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