It’s simple math: The more you eat, the more calories you consume, the more weight you gain. It’s also a simple solution: Eat less of the wrong kinds of foods. To do this, you need to limit your portion sizes. If you’re used to eating big portions or have never been taught correct portion sizes, it’s hard to know what a sensible portion size is. Don’t worry, it’s never too late to learn healthy eating habits and put them into practice.
Instead of thinking of portion sizes in terms of measurements like half a cup or a quarter cup, it’s helpful to compare portions to the sizes of everyday objects. At every snack and meal, take the following serving size recommendations into consideration and you’ll be on your way to weight loss.
Four or Five Fruits
For good health, make it your goal to eat four to five servings of fruit a day. This doesn’t necessarily mean four to five pieces of fruit. A serving of fruit is considered to be a medium-size fruit like an apple or banana, two small fruits like plums or apricots, or a baseball-size amount of frozen or canned fruit. If you eat dried fruit, a serving size is a quarter cup, which is a large handful. One half-cup serving of 100-percent fruit juice a day can also count toward your recommended number of fruit servings.
On a 2,000-calorie diet, make it your goal to eat four to five servings of vegetables a day for good health. If you’re making a salad, a serving of leafy greens is one cup, or the size of your fist. Chock full of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, a serving of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice is half a cup and will look like the size of a baseball.
Unless you’re on a diet that severely restricts carbs, whole grains are a good way to get energy and fiber. Dietary recommendations encourage six to eight servings of grains each day. It’s easy to overdo it when it comes to grains, though, so watch out. A serving of grains would be one slice of bread; a half-cup of pasta, rise, or noodles; two-thirds cup of dry cereal flakes; or half a cup of cooked oatmeal. Not sure what those measurements look like? Use a measuring cup to figure it out. You may be surprised to learn you’ve been eating way too much.
For your weight-loss efforts and daily recommended amounts of calcium, protein, vitamins, and minerals, you’d do well to consume two to three servings a day of low-fat or fat-free dairy products. A single portion of dairy looks like a cup of milk, one cup of yogurt, or one and a half ounces of cheese, which looks like the size of six dice.
Meat, Poultry, and Seafood
When it comes to lean meats, poultry, and seafood, aim to eat less than six cooked ounces a day to get your recommended amounts of protein and iron. A three-ounce serving of meat is the size of a computer mouse or a deck of cards, another good way to measure it making a fist with your hand. Three ounces of seafood is the size of a checkbook. Again, it’s easy to overdo it when it comes to servings of meat, so be on your guard.
Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes
Another great source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals comes in the form of nuts, seeds, and legumes. Eat four to five servings of these nutritional powerhouses a week. A serving is two tablespoons of nut spread or seeds, one-third cup of nuts, or half a cup of dried beans.
Fats and Oils
There are good fats and bad. You don’t need any of the bad and you need two to three servings a day of the good. A serving is quite small—only a teaspoon to a tablespoon of things like margarine, mayonnaise, vegetable oil, or salad dressing.
Added Sugars and Sweets
When it comes to added sugars and sweets, you should eat less than five servings a week. Notice that says week, not every day. A serving of sweets is quite small—just one tablespoon of sugar or jam, half a cup of sorbet, or one cup of lemonade.