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Oct 6 / Jeremy & Kim

Know Your Portion Sizes

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Growing up I heard a lot about the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of foods for healthy living, but the truth is even when I heard that the recommended daily allowance of fruit was two cups I had no idea what that that looked like.  I couldn’t tell you how many cups of fruit were in a banana.  I didn’t eat my bananas out of cups!  When I first started using an online calorie counter I was asked how many ounces of beef I had eaten.  Well how was I supposed to know that!?  It was cubed and slathered in pepper sauce!  I wasn’t eating it off of a scale.  This is a common problem, but one that is important if you have any interest in developing healthy eating habits.


[We love going to the fruit and vegetable markets in Ethiopia.  We get great produce for a fraction of the price you would pay in the U.S. We bought some avocados the other day for 30 cents a piece!]
American Adults are terrible at eating their vegetables! 

 A report released by the CDC stated that “32.6% of adults consumed fruit two or more times per day and 27.2% ate vegetables three or more times per day.” This means that about 73% of American adults do not eat the recommended daily allowance for vegetables!  That is abysmal and disturbing news to anyone in the health industry.  The CDC goes on to say “the results underscore the need for continued interventions that encourage greater fruit and vegetable consumption among U.S. adults.” Yes, continued intervention is necessary, indeed!  But I would argue that a large part of the problem is that most Americans simply have no idea whether or not they are eating the recommended daily allowance of fruits or vegetables.  Even if they know the RDA for fruit is two cups they have no idea if they’ve eaten two cups or not.  They understand portion sizes about as well as I did a few years ago.  No one eats there bananas out of cups.

Get out your measuring cups and experiment

The best place to start is in your own home.  You may not always be able to control portion sizes when you go out to eat, but you can control how much you serve yourself.  Luckily, a lot of the equipment you will need to train yourself on portion sizes is already in your kitchen.  Get out your measuring cups, your bowls, glasses, and plates. 

If you normally eat cereal for breakfast, then use your measuring cup to pour exactly one serving into your breakfast bowl.  Take note of how high the cereal rises in the bowl.  Not quite as much as you would have hoped, huh?  Now add another full serving.  Does that look more like your usual bowl of cereal? 

Next take your wine glasses.  Fill one up with water to about the serving size you usually pour yourself.  Now dump that water into a liquid measuring cup. 3 oz. is considering one serving of wine.  How many servings did you pour yourself?  Now do it in reverse.  Measure out 3 oz. of water and pour that into your wine glass.  Take note of how full you wine glass is.  Remember that spot the next time you pour yourself a serving of wine.  Do the same with your other drinking glasses.  How many oz. of juice do you usually poor?  How many oz. of milk?

Try to measure everything that you eat often. 

The next time you eat an apple, core it, slice it and see if it is half a cup (1 serving) or more.  The rule of thumb for chicken used to be that a breast was about 3 oz.  However, now that most chickens are genetically modified to have enormous breasts you are probably underestimating if you stick to this rule.  A modified chicken breast can be up to 6 oz.  Below are a few visuals you can memorize to help you guestimate serving sizes when you are not preparing the food yourself.

  • 1⁄4 cup = about the size of a golf ball
  • 1⁄2 cup = about the size of a tennis ball
  • 1 ounce nuts = half of a cupped palm
  • 1 cup cereal = About the size of a baseball
  • 1 medium bagel = About the size of a hockey puck
  • 1 ounce cheese = About the size of 2 dominoes
  • 3 ounces meat = About the size of a deck of cards
  • 1 medium potato = About the size of a computer mouse

Learning portion sizes really doesn’t take that long.  Once you’ve measured things out a few times you will be better able to visulaize what a true serving looks like.  It will stick with you and you’ll have much more control over the amount of food you eat, even when your eating out. 

Oh, and please help yourself to more vegetables!

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  1. Portions are key and this is one of the things to really help my wife lose weight (besides me that is, lol). When I got her to keep a journal and watch her portions the weight really started to come off and stay off. It is really important for many people to realize that its not so much what you eat but how much of it you actually put into your mouth that causes the problem. For some reason people tend to think that simply because they workout and they can afford to eat those extra 500-1000 calories per day. Its all about portion control and Jeremy and Kim you have it 100% right!


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