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How to estimate proper serving sizes

By Staff | Dec 28, 2012

“I’m trying to manage my weight, but I have a hard time with serving sizes. Do you have any ways I can estimate my portions when I am not around measuring cups or scales?”

Consider these visual ways to size up a serving:

  • 1 cup of cereal = a fist
  • cup of cooked rice, pasta or potato = baseball
  • 1 medium fruit = a baseball
  • cup of fresh fruit = baseball
  • cup of ice cream = baseball
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter = a ping-pong ball
  • 3 ounces of meat = a deck of cards

Tips to manage


Have you ever sat down in front of a TV with a full bag, box, or bowl of snack foods? After eating for a while, have you ever discovered that the container was nearly empty? Where did that food go?

Researchers call this mindless eating. If we do not pay attention to what we are eating, we may eat more than we plan to eat. Eating too much can lead to weight gain. Being overweight places us at higher risk for several diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.

These are some ideas to help you manage the amount of food you should eat:

  • Serve yourself the amount of food that equals one serving according to the nutrition facts label (if available). Read about the nutritional content of the food, too.
  • Eat from a smaller plate instead of directly from the bag or container.
  • When your plate is empty, stop. Don’t go back for seconds of high-calorie, high-fat or high-sodium foods.
  • Eat slowly. Your brain needs at least 20 minutes to get the message that your stomach is full.
  • Take control of the amount of high-fat and high-calorie items you consume by taking seconds of vegetables.
  • Pay attention to what you are eating. Enjoy the aroma and taste of your foods.
  • Use smaller serving utensils to remind yourself to take less.
  • Keep the remnants of food or the wrappers in front of you so you can see how much you have eaten.
  • When you set out foods, place foods into smaller containers. You and your family or guests may take a smaller amount of the item.

Saltine toffee cookies

4 ounces saltine crackers

1 cup butter

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Line cookie sheet with saltine crackers in single layer. In a saucepan combine the sugar and the butter. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Immediately pour over saltines and spread t cover crackers completely. Bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes. Spread melted chocolate and top with chopped nuts. Cool completely and break into pieces.

Caramel Cookie Crunch Chex Mix

2 cups Chocolate Chex cereal

2 cups Cinnamon Chex cereal

2 cups popped popcorn

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon dark corn syrup

2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

In large microwaveable bowl, measure cereals and popcorn. Line cookie sheet with waxed paper or foil. In 2-cup microwavable measure, microwave butter on high 30 seconds, or until melted. Stir in brown sugar, syrup and condensed milk. Microwave on High 30 seconds or until mixture is boiling; stir and pour over cereal-popcorn mixture. Microwave on High 3 minutes, stirring every minute. Spread on waxed paper. Cool 5 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Nutritional Information:

1/2 cup: Calories 110 (Calories from Fat 25); Total Fat 2 1/2g (Saturated Fat 1g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 120mg; Total Carbohydrate 20g (Dietary Fiber 0g, Sugars 11g); Protein 1g % Daily Value*: Vitamin A 6%; Vitamin C 2%; Calcium 6%; Iron 20% Exchanges: 1/2 Starch; 1 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 1 MyPyramid Servings: 1 oz-equivalents Grains *% Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

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