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Picture-Perfect Portion Sizes

Control your waistline by controlling your intake at each meal.

Back in 1973, when I first moved to the United States, sodas were sold in 6-ounce bottles. Guess what the average portion size is today? Twenty ounces! The story is the same for hamburgers. In 1973, when I sampled my first one, they were about 2.5 ounces; today they are double, even triple, that size! It’s no wonder people are becoming so overweight.

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So, how do you know a reasonably sized serving of food when you see it? You can use everyday objects as points of comparison to help you control your serving sizes — which ensures that you don't eat too much or too little. Visualize the objects listed below, and match their equivalents to standard serving sizes when you are planning your meals, eating out, or grabbing a snack:

  • Two cups of mixed greens are two baseballs.

  • One cup of raw vegetables is a baseball.

  • A half cup of cooked vegetables, rice, cereal, couscous, bulgur wheat, beans, tofu, or low-fat cottage cheese is a cupcake or muffin.

  • One medium baked potato or sweet potato is a computer mouse.

  • For vegetable or fruit juice, 8-10 ounces is about three-quarters of a soda can.

  • One medium piece of raw fruit is a tennis ball.

  • One cup of berries or chopped fruit is a baseball.

  • A fourth of a cup of dried fruit is a golf ball.

  • A half of a whole-grain 3-ounce bagel, a half of a whole-wheat English muffin, or a half of a whole-grain hamburger bun is a hockey puck.

  • One whole-wheat pita or one whole-wheat flour or corn tortilla is an average-sized saucer.

  • Four whole-grain crackers are four tea bags.

  • Two low-fat whole-wheat pancakes are two compact discs.

  • One cup of milk (skim, low-fat, 1 percent, Lactaid, acidophilus, soy, rice, and nut milks) or one cup of plain, low-fat, sugar-free, or soy yogurt, is a baseball.

  • An ounce of hard cheese is a tube of lipstick.

  • One vegetarian burger or patty is a lid to a mayonnaise jar.

  • One tablespoon of oil (olive, canola, flaxseed, peanut, sesame, walnut, or other oil), salad dressing, mayonnaise, nut butters, nuts, or seeds is one checker.

  • When it comes to meat, I recommend 4 ounces — roughly the same size as your checkbook or a deck of cards — as part of a healthy meal.

You can use my system to mind your portion sizes at restaurants, where everything is supersized. By the way, I love it that restaurants are now serving bigger portions! That means I can take half my order home for a meal the next day.

There are other ways to pare down those large restaurant portions: Order an appetizer with a side salad. Split the meal with a friend. Or ask for half an order, with a double order of veggies on the side, as your main course. Another trick I use is to ask for a doggie bag as soon as the server delivers the entrée. Cut the portion in half immediately and place it in the doggie bag, or have the server wrap it up for you. If you let it linger on your plate, you might be tempted to finish off the whole thing.

There's a definite connection between obesity and obesity-related diseases and the inflated serving sizes at many U.S. restaurants and eateries. It’s very easy to overeat and get fat as a result. So, by all means, go easy on portion sizes. Eat until you’re satisfied, not stuffed.

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