When you’re tracking calories, estimating portion size can be tricky, especially when eating out. While some restaurants have their nutritional information online, most don’t. Here’s how to make sure that your food journal doesn’t miss a beat.
First off, don’t fret. It’s common for dieters to think that their plan is ruined just because they don’t know the exact contents of what they’re eating. When it comes to tracking calories, some information is better than none, and it’s fine to eyeball things so long as you don’t do it all the time. Perfect is the enemy of good here, and it’s much better to be consistent than occasionally flawless.
Second, you can use the sizes of known items in order to approximate what you’re eating.
McKinley Health Center has a great guide with lots of examples — it’s somewhat old, but the information is still good. Here’s an example for meat:
|THE MEAT, POULTRY, FISH, DRY BEANS, EGGS and NUTS GROUP|
|2 tablespoons peanut butter-equal to 1 oz. of meat||is the size of a Ping-Pong ball|
|1 tablespoon peanut butter||is the size of a thumb tip *|
|3 ounces cooked meat, fish, poultry||is the size of a palm, a deck of cards or a cassette tape|
|3 ounces grilled/baked fish||is the size of a checkbook|
|3 ounces cooked chicken||is the size of a chicken leg and thigh or breast|
It helps to choose dishes where each food group can be “compartmentalised”. For example, steak and potatoes will be much easier to estimate than spaghetti and meatballs. Once you have a general idea of your meal contents, you can plug it intro nutrition trackers, such as MyFitnessPal. For the full chart (which includes much more than the sample above), see the link below.
Making Sense of Serving Sizes [McKinley Health Center]