Cooking and Portion Control

Q. What's all the fuss about measuring and weighing your food?

A. You may think that eating just a little more than your daily meal plan allows won't make much difference. In fact, you may be surprised to discover that consistently eating more than your recommended intake, even as little as 200 or 300 calories a day, has an impact on your weight and blood glucose levels.

Portion control is easy to practice once you learn the basic guidelines.
Portion control is an important aspect
to controlling your weight.

It's difficult to imagine that eating an extra banana or a large baked potato rather than a medium one could affect your health. After all, they are healthful foods. However, this excess food may raise your blood glucose levels, and consistently eating extra calories will increase your weight unless you increase your exercise as well.

That's why it is so important to measure portions and learn techniques for accurately determining portion sizes. The more practice you have weighing and measuring food, the easier it will be to estimate the correct portions when you're eating out.

Measure portions of stews, casseroles, vegetables, cut-up fruit, pasta, rice, and ice cream using a standard set of dry measures. Use measuring spoons to portion small quantities like soft margarine, oil, mayonnaise, salad dressing, and peanut butter.

Use clear glass or plastic liquid measures to measure soups, milk, juices, and other liquids. Consider investing in an inexpensive scale to weigh meat, poultry, fish, cheese, fruits, vegetables, and snacks.

Most produce sections have scales for customer use; get in the habit of weighing fruits and vegetables until you can accurately select a 3-ounce (small) potato or a 4-ounce (small) apple.

Watching portion sizes when you eat out is easy when you use tricks like these.

  • A deck of cards is equal in size to a 3- to 4-ounce portion of meat, poultry, or fish. The palm of a small or average-size hand is about the same portion.

  • The last joint of your thumb or a domino is about the size of a 1-ounce portion of cheese.

  • A tennis ball is equal in size to a medium apple or orange.

  • A medium-size closed fist or a baseball is about the size of a 1-cup measure of cereal, pasta, fruit, or vegetables.

  • A handful of chips is equal to a 1-ounce serving.

  • A computer mouse is equal in size to a medium potato.

Although these are excellent guidelines, even an experienced estimator will need to reassess portion sizes against weights and measures occasionally.
When portioning recipes, look for a definition of the serving size. If this information is not provided, use these tips for determining that information yourself.

Soups, Stews, Side Dishes

Just before serving, turn the food into a large dry or liquid measuring cup; level the top. Divide this yield by the number of servings. For example, if the total yield is 4 cups, and the recipe makes 4 servings, divide 4 cups by 4 -- each serving is 1 cup.


Choose a round or square casserole dish. Just before serving, divide the food into equal portions. First locate the center, then cut through it, dividing the casserole into equal portions.

If the recipe suggests a rectangular dish (for example, for lasagna), divide the food into equal portions following the directions below for bar cookies and sheet cakes.

Bar Cookies/Sheet Cakes

Cutting bar cookies and cake is easily managed. Use the chart below to determine how to divide the cake into equal pieces. For example, if a cake is made in a 13x9-inch pan and makes 24 pieces, divide the long side of the cake into six equal pieces. You can do this by "eyeballing" it.

It may be easier to cut the cake in half, then cut each half into thirds to make the six pieces. You may also divide the longer dimension of the cake (13 inches) by 6, which equals approximately 2 inches (the width of each piece).

Divide the short side into four equal pieces; or, divide 9 inches by 4, which equals 2-1/4 inches. Estimate or use a ruler to cut the cake into 24 pieces, each 2 by 2-1/4 inches.

13x9-inch Pan
8x8- or 9x9-inch Pan
32 pieces 8 by 4
20 pieces 5 by 4
28 pieces 7 by 4
16 pieces 4 by 4
24 pieces 6 by 4
12 pieces 4 by 3
18 pieces 6 by 3
9 pieces 3 by 3
12 pieces 4 by 3
8 pieces 4 by 2

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This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.