Portion Estimator

Knowing how much you're eating is one of the most important skills in dieting. If you underestimate your portions by only 10 percent, you'll gain 20 pounds a year. DietPower weight and nutrition coaching software recommends using an electronic food scale or a measuring cup. When you can't, however, these rules of thumb can help. Bold ones are easiest to remember. (If your memory is poor, just learn the Volume column.)

Rules of Thumb

Food Size Volume Weight (oz)*
As big as a... Household
measure
Meat,
cheese,
fruit,
veggies,
drinks**
Cookies,
nuts, diced
or
shredded
foods**
Cake,
bread,
crackers,
chips**
Computer key 1/2 t 0.1 0.05 0.03
Thimble 1/2 t 0.1 0.05 0.03
Lipstick cap 1 t 0.2 0.1 0.05
Pair of 5/8" dice (both) 1/2 T 0.3 0.14 0.07
Woman's thumb 1 T 0.5 0.3 0.1
9-volt battery 1 T 0.5 0.3 0.1
Roll of 35 mm film 1 T 0.7 0.3 0.2
Man's thumb 2 T 0.8 0.4 0.2
Ping pong ball 2 T 1 0.5 0.2
Matchbox 1 fl oz 1 0.5 0.2
Golf ball 1/6 cup 2 1 0.5
Deck of cards 1/3 cup 3 1.5 0.8
Bar of soap 1/2 cup 4 2 1.0
Palm of woman's hand 1/2 cup 4 2 1.0
Hockey puck 1/2 cup 4 2 1.0
Custard cup 1/2 cup 4 2 1.0
Tape cassette holder 1/2 cup 4 2 1.0
Medium potato 1/2 cup 5 2.5 1.3
Tennis ball 5/8 cup 5 2.5 1.3
Palm of man's hand 3/4 cup 6 3 1.5
Checkbook 3/4 cup 6 3 1.5
Computer mouse 3/4 cup 6 3 1.5
Baseball 1 cup 8 4 2.0
200-page paperback 1 cup 8 4 2.0

*
To convert ounces to grams, multiply the ounce figure by 30. (To be more precise, you can multiply by 28.35—but 30 is generally close enough for estimating portions.)
 
**
Meat, cheese, fruit, vegetables, and drinks are about the same density as water. Cookies, nuts, and diced or shredded foods are about half as dense, because they're half air. Cake, bread, crackers, and chips are only one-quarter as dense. (These are approximations, of course. As anyone knows, a slice of chocolate cake is heavier than an equally big slice of angel-food cake. Use your judgment.)
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