Portion control is an important concept when you’re trying to limit calories for weight management or diabetes. But it takes visual practice to master. Go ahead and pour what you think is a ½ cup of cold cereal in a bowl. Then actually measure it. How close were you? You might be surprised.

You don’t need to memorize a food list or carry around measuring cups to get a better handle on serving sizes. Instead, use common visual cues to remind yourself of appropriate serving sizes. Many food portions on a plate match up to everyday objects.

For example, a small baked potato is about the size of a fist and equals one carbohydrate serving. While not all foods perfectly match visual cues, this method can help better judge serving sizes and practice portion control. Most often, weight loss happens as a result of decreased portion sizes, not necessarily choosing different foods.

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Eat your favorite foods, just less.

So, get those measuring cups out and use them at every meal at home for a week or two. This way you’ll know what 1 cup of pasta looks like on a 9 inch plate. This info is crucial, particularly when you need to choose the right portion size quickly.

Fill up your plate with green veggies first and get full on those before eating other food. Keep in mind that restaurants specialize in mega-portions; a 12-ounce steak can contain three to four servings of meat. When ordering a meal, ask the server to only put half the meal on your plate and pack the other half to go. Eat slow which helps with satiety, so then you eat less.

portion sizes for weight loss

Be a label reader. Are you eating the serving size listed for the amount of calories or carbs shown on the Nutrition Facts label? For example, a small bag of pretzels may say that it contains two servings, so if you’re eating the whole bag, you’d have to double the calories, fat, and carbohydrate information per serving to know how much you’re really consuming.

If you really want to keep track of calories, carbs, fats, fruits, vegetables, The Exchange List for Meal Planning is used by dietitians for weight management and/or diabetes. It focuses heavily on portion sizes and getting all of your food groups in, in the recommended levels, 50% carbs, 30% fat, 20% protein.

It may take some practice to become a better judge of serving sizes and portions, especially as you put entire meals together. But the more you practice visualizing the cues, the more control you’ll have over portion sizes. Controlling portion sizes also means controlling calories — and that’s key to achieving your weight-loss goals.

Some good portion size guides:

Fist – 1 cup

Rice, pasta – 200 cal
Fruit – 75 cal
Veggies – 40 cal

Palm – 3 ounces

Meat – 160 cal
Fish – 160 cal
Poultry – 160 cal

Handful – 1 ounce

Nuts – 170 cal
Raisins – 85 cal

2 handfuls – 1 ounce

Chips – 150 cal
Popcorn – 120 cal
Pretzels – 100 cal

Thumb – 1 ounce

Peanut butter – 170 cal
Hard cheese – 100 cal

Thumb tip – 1 ounce

Cooking oil – 40 cal
Mayonnaise, butter – 35 cal
Sugar – 15 cal

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