(Portion) Size Matters

Quick! How many almonds in a serving? What’s a serving of peanut butter? How big is a serving of pasta? How much wood could a woodchuck….. oh, wait.  Scratch that last one.

23 almonds are in a serving.  Two tablespoons make one serving of peanut butter.  And 1/2 cup of cooked pasta is all you get in a serving.  In those items are 160 calories for almonds, 188 calories for peanut butter and 212 calories in the pasta.

I bring all of this up as a result of a conversation the other day with a friend who said that she really doesn’t eat very much.  She’s a little puzzled as to why she weighs what she does.  To be honest, I was the same way.  I generally ate about 550 calories over the course of my work day.  Not bad except that I usually consumed them in the form of a Snickers bar.  But, still, it was all I ate all day and the count itself wasn’t that bad.  How could I have weighed so much?

Dinnertime, that’s how.

When I started keeping a food diary, I was startled, horrified and embarrassed at how much I ate in a single sitting.  My nighttime meals, often the only real one I had on any given day, were ranging up to and sometimes even over 1500 calories in a single sitting.  How in the world do you do that, you might ask.  Easily, I would answer.

A plate of spaghetti (or about 1.5 cups of noodles) is 636 calories, add another 70 for a cup of canned sauce, another 73 for an ounce of ground beef added to the sauce, another 140 for a single slice of garlic Texas toast (but you’ll probably need another half slice to sop of the rest of the sauce) and you’ve got a meal with 989 calories.  For dessert, let’s go with 1 cup of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food.  That’s another 420.  Okay, so that’s only 1409.  I exaggerated….a little.  I could easily eat 1400 calories.  In a single sitting. RIGHT BEFORE BEDTIME.  That’s more calories that I now eat in an entire day!  Friends, nothing good will come from that.

The tools in my kitchen that get washed the most are my measuring instruments – spoons, cups and scale.  There are some foods that I can sort of “eyeball” a single serving of.  The problem with eyeballing and ballparking is that my eyeballs and ballparks both get bigger and, before I know it, that half cup of pasta is an overflowing whole cup.  I can’t control my calorie, carb, fat or whatever else intake if I don’t know what I’m eating.  And, to really know what I’m eating, I have to measure it.  In a pinch, I use the palm of my hand to guesstimate a serving size.  That works when I’m eating out or am a guest in someone’s home and I want to watch my manners in the hopes of being invited back.  I’ve found that if I get too weird or high-maintenance at the dinner table, my phone number gets lost.  Quickly.

It’s a nuisance, to be sure; however, it’s absolutely necessary if I am going to really know what I am putting in my body. If I’m not vigilant, I gain weight, lose energy and lose my way.  Having traveled this reduction road now more than once, I know how hard it is.  With this vigilance, I won’t have to do it again.



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