Thursday, March 4, 2010

Admit it, Size Matters

Oooh, this post could go in so many naughty directions. But since I just turned in my latest Blaze, I'll step out of the naughty zone and behave ;-)

I'm talking size when it comes to food. I know I'm reiterating quite a bit of what Michelle posted in these links, but it's worth hearing a few times. At for me, I know I need to hear things a few times before it sinks in.

Measure It! Use a food scale and measuring cups. It really won't slow down your meal prep by much, and it's hugely enlightening to see what an ounce really is. For instance, an ounce of cheese is much bigger than I'd thought, but a cup of rice was much smaller than I'd been acknowledging.

Here's a quick-tip portion size comparison:

3 oz. of meat = deck of cards
Baked potato = computer mouse
Fruit = tennis ball
Bagel = hockey puck
1/2 cup chips, popcorn, pretzels, etc. = teacup
Rice or other cooked grain = cupcake wrapper
1 oz. cheese = tube of lipstick
1 oz. nuts = egg
Pasta = light bulb

Frame It: If you choose a smaller plate for your meal, you'll eat less and still feel fuller. Over time, not only have our portion sizes gotten bigger, so have our plates. So if you're controlling your portion size, but putting it on a big saucer-like plate, you're going to feeling like you didn't get enough to eat before you even take your first bite. But if you're just-right portion is on a smaller plate - one that looks filled - you're mind will be satisfied that it's getting enough, and give your stomach time to realize that it's right.

Confirm It: Have you ever been fooled by a nutrition label? I have. For those crazy, on the run days, I'd stocked up a couple frozen meals in the freezer. Just in case. I pulled one out the other day, but before I heated it up I went in to log the calories/protein/fat/carbs in my FitDay program. It was only then that I happened to notice that my low-cal, low-fat, organic, vegetarian healthy meal (which was about 4x5 in size, if that) was supposed to serve 2. Two tiny vegetable enchiladas, to serve 2 people. If I ate only one enchilada, I'd definitely still be hungry. If I ate both, I'd have eaten over half my daily-caloric-allotment. Eeek!! What'd I do? Put it back in the freezer, of course, and had a salad. But I also learned a major lesson to read ALL the deets, not just to give a quick glance at the numbers.

So, really, size does matter, huh?

How about you? Any portion control tips or tricks? Did you ever suffer portion-blindness? You know, where you were clueless what a portion size was or were tricked into thinking you were only having one portion when you were really having much more?

Tawny Weber writes hot, spicy stories for Harlequin Blaze. In January 2010, her novella, YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS, was out in the Blazing Bedtime Story anthology and her next full length Blaze,, RIDING THE WAVES, will be out in September 2010. Come by and visit her on the web at


Sally Kilpatrick on March 4, 2010 at 6:40 AM said...


You are definitely on to something. I get lazy sometimes, but I've found that it's helpful to get out the measuring cups and to spoon the appropriate amount of dinner on my plate. I haven't tried a smaller plate, but I did get a smaller bowl for my soup the other night--and I really did feel that I'd had an entire bowl even though it was a smaller one than I would have normally used.

Other than that, my other trick is to cut things in half (protein bars, apples, etc.)--it seems to help to eat part now and part later.

Michelle Butler on March 4, 2010 at 10:42 AM said...

Portion control is one of my biggest challenges in terms of healthy eating and losing weight. I've worked a lot on it but could do better. I have to be very disciplined about it.

I'm usually cooking for one. When I do that marathon cooking, I make sure that I portion out all the meals into individual servings that I can grab to take to work for lunch or eat for dinner/supper. It helps a lot. I also measure my cereal in the morning.

What really challenges my portion control are buffets and eating out. Any tips would be very working. I'm still working on being good about that. I'll get to confront that challenge in about a half hour too for a catered, work lunch.

Tawny on March 4, 2010 at 2:59 PM said...

Sally, its amazing how the eye convinces the brain that we had enough to eat, isn't it? If you'd had a bigger bowl of soup, chances are you'd have felt just as full after eating it all (if not a smidge fuller *g*)

I like the idea of cutting things in half! I'm a big fan of pre-packaging my own snacks, too. If I measure out a few days snacks and put them in little bags, I know I'll be getting the right amount, and have a ready snack on hand for those starving moments.

Tawny on March 4, 2010 at 3:03 PM said...

Michelle, eating out and buffets are a tough one. I mean, its not like you can carry around a measuring cup in your purse, right? Thats where I think the portion comparisons come in handy. If you know a portion of pasta is the size of a light bulb and a portion of meat is the size of a deck of cards, at a buffet you can serve yourself JUST that amount. If you're at a restaurant, I think the wisest course is to ask to have a to-go box delivered with the meal so you can stash the extra away immediately, before you even start eating.

As for those catered work luncheons, I'm not quite sure the perfect answer. Again, knowing comparative portion sizes is great, but sometimes we're have little control over the choices available. Then, I think all we can do is fall back on the healthiest of the options. I know I'll be facing this on Saturday when I'm in a catered, all-day writers workshop.

Michelle Butler on March 4, 2010 at 3:56 PM said...

I did fine at the lunch, Tawny. It was a buffet, and I did think of your visual cues. Folks were making such a fuss over how good I looked with the weight loss that it was pretty easy to make smart food choices. (I've worked in the same industry for awhile, and folks were at the meeting from several cities - so they don't see me every day. The cumulative difference is fairly big.) I'll probably have a slightly lighter supper than normal (6 point range), but I'll be fine for the day. :)

Thanks for the suggestions. I do try to do the to-go box quickly, but I've never done it before I started eating. Have you ever seen anyone do that? Best wishes at the luncheon!

Also, the one serving size item I'm about to eat is actually 2-3 according to the label phenomenon really annoys me.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on March 4, 2010 at 4:46 PM said...

It's always good to be reminded of these things, Tawny. Just like when we go to writing workshops where the speakers tell us things we already know, but it's good to bring those things back to the front of our minds.

Portion control is something we have to be vigilant about, I think, especially since we've become a "supersize" society.

Tawny on March 4, 2010 at 10:46 PM said...

I'm so glad your buffet went well, Michelle :-) And I hear you on the deceptive serving-size frustration!!

The to go box thing, yeah, I've done it once or twice. Its easier in more casual restaurants, that's for sure *g*

Tawny on March 4, 2010 at 11:01 PM said...

It is so easy to get off the portion wagon, isn't it, Trish. I know when I get too comfortable I can definitely forget to worry about monitoring how much I'm eating.

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