When you're trying to lose weight, one of the best skills you can learn is accurately sizing up portions. Studies show that almost everyone—heavy people and thin ones, nutrition experts and normal folks—underestimates how much they're eating a lot of the time. Research by EatingWell advisor Brian Wansink, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition and marketing at Cornell University and the former executive director for the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, shows that people tend to underestimate calorie intake by 20 to 40 percent.
Try these three easy tips to measure your portions without having to break out your measuring cups:
1. Compare things: 3 ounces of meat or protein is about the size of a deck of cards, a medium potato is the size of a computer mouse and a 1/4 cup is the size of a golf ball.
2. Use your hand: for small-framed women, 1 teaspoon is about the size of the tip of your thumb, 1 tablespoon is the size of your thumb and 1 cup is the size of your fist.
3. Measure once: when you're at home, you're using the same bowls and utensils over and over again. Find out how much they hold. Measure out the amount of soup that your ladle holds. If it's 3⁄4 cup you'll know forever that two scoops equal a satisfying 11⁄2-cup serving. On the flip-side, you can measure out a given portion of a particular favorite food and serve it in the dish you'll almost always use when you eat that food. Once you know that one serving of cereal reaches only halfway up your bowl, you'll know to stop there.
Tip: Cooking individual-size portions like Broccoli & Goat Cheese Souffle, which is made in a 10-ounce ramekin, will help you control calories without even thinking about it.