It isn’t new information that portions today are larger than they’ve ever been. Compared to 20 years ago, portion sizes have doubled or even tripled in size.

Fast food restaurants offer supersize meals, making it seem like a better value for your money. Now this may not seem like such a bad thing if you’re a college student on a tight budget, but it is more harmful than you think. This increase in portions has caused an expansion on waistlines because it makes it so much easier to overeat without noticing.

According to WebMD, with over half of the American population eating out at least once a week, this growth in portions has become a problem that contributed to the obesity epidemic. Along with the supersize option in restaurants, many have adapted this supersize mentality in their homes, and therefore no longer know what a regular portion looks like.

It has been documented that the average American consumes 300 calories over the recommended caloric intake. This may not seem like a big deal, but here’s an example of how these numbers add up over time: 100 extra calories per day can lead to 10 extra pounds of weight gain per year!

Right-sizing your portions

In order to avoid overeating, measure your food using measuring cups, spoons and a scale. Of course you can always measure your food when you’re in the comfort of your home, but no one wants to carry measuring cups and spoons everywhere they go.

Try measuring your food for a week to get the hang of visualizing the right portions sizes. You can also use visual cues to help you understand what a single portion size of some common foods look like:

  • 1 portion of meat (3 oz.) = deck of cards
  • 1 serving of raw vegetables (1 cup) = 2 baseballs
  • 1 serving of cooked vegetable (1/2 cup) = baseball
  • 1 serving of fruit (1 cup) = fist
  • 1 serving of cooked pasta (1/2 cup) = lightbulb
  • 1 serving of butter or sugar (1 tsp.) = tip of your thumb
  • 1 serving of cheese (1 ½ oz.) = 4 stacked dice
  • 1 serving of nuts (1/4 cup) = a handful
  • 1 serving of peanut butter (2 tbsp.) = the size of your thumb
  • 1 serving of popcorn, pretzels, or chips (1 ounce)= 2 handfuls

Control your food portion size

 At a restaurant:

  • Ask for half of your meal to be boxed up before bringing it out, so that you can save the other half for later.
  • Ask if the dish you want comes in half portions (it’s smaller and cheaper).
  • Share a meal with whomever you’re eating with.
  • Order a small soda, or better yet, skip the soda all together and order a glass of water or iced tea.

At home:

  • Make sure vegetables fill about half of your plate, leaving 1/4th the plate for protein (chicken, fish, beans, etc.), and the other 1/4th for your starch (rice, pasta, bread, etc.).
  • Serve plates directly off the stove instead of placing the entire serving dish right in front of you on the table.
  • Read nutrition labels: check the size and number of servings.
  • Portion out snacks in small ziplock bags instead of eating right out of the container.
  • Don’t deprive yourself; if you are craving a treat, buy the single-sized portion.
  • Use smaller plates and glasses.
  • Cut down portion sizes and increase the amount of meals you eat per day. Eating six meals every 2-3 hours prevents overeating and can help boost your metabolism. It will also help control hunger urges and control your appetite.


Focus on mindful eating

Mindful eating entails listening to your body to figure out when your hunger cues and checking in with your body during mealtimes to determine how full you are.

The portion guidelines are not a one-size-fits-all approach. Some days you may feel more hungry than usual, so it is perfectly fine to have a little more to satisfy your hunger. It’s important to realize that your body may have different needs than others around you, just make sure to tune in and listen attentively. Remember not to beat yourself up if you do end up eating a little more than you should have, it’s nothing an exercise session can’t fix!


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Yasmeen Hantuli is Layali’s Health & Fitness blogger. She graduated from California State University, San Bernardino with a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Nutrition and a minor in Arabic. She received her master’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Loma Linda University in June 2014 after completing an accredited internship to become a Registered Dietitian. She currently resides in San Francisco, Calif. with her supportive husband. Yasmeen has a love for Islam, food, health, culture and helping others.


Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Excellent article! My husband at one point began weighing his food and using serving cups and spoons to eat the proper portions. It was a lot of work, but it did wonders for him. I really like the cheat sheet! Thanks.


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