Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Measuring Cups are Your Friends!

No one really wants to admit they measure their food. No one wants to be caught counting out how many chips or cookies they are going to have. No one wants to be found reading nutrition labels before a meal. It’s funny that so many of us are ashamed of being aware. But, sadly, we all know how this looks from an outsider’s perspective; doing these things seems obsessive, unnecessary, and indicates you’re on a “diet,” which in their eyes is unfounded. Don’t feel ashamed if you do measure, count, or analyze nutrition labels because, honestly, most people have no idea what one cup of milk or half a cup of vegetables looks like.

In a society where everything is ‘super-sized’ and more is always better, we’ve lost our sense of what a reasonable portion is. Measuring things out helps us either re-learn what we’ve long forgotten or never learned. Thankfully, as people become more conscious of what they're eating, companies have FINALLY wised up by making smaller, healthier portions of items (i.e. 100-calorie packs). Between measuring cups and healthy, pre-portioned items you should have the tools you need to understand what a reasonable portion is and make educated choices.

I fully admit that I measure my food on a daily basis (unless, I am allowing myself to eat whatever my little heart desires). If I didn’t measure, one cup of milk would become a cup and a half, four ounces of chicken would become eight, and two tablespoons of peanut butter would become three or four. You’re probably thinking, “How could that be, doesn’t she know what a reasonable portion is by now?” Well, yes, I know approximately what a cup and tablespoon each look like, but I also know that I have the tendency to ‘super-size’ my portions because I love food. For whatever reason, we always believe we need more food than we really do because our minds react before our bodies have the chance to. Remember that it takes approximately 20 minutes before your body registers that it has had enough food. Measuring forces you to become aware of what you're taking in, understand what your body really needs, and ultimately, become accountable to yourself.

How can you truly be accountable for what you’re eating if you have no clue how much you’re eating? If you’re really trying to lose weight, know you’re not good with portion control, or have no idea what a recommended serving looks like, I suggest you start measuring your food until you understand what a reasonable portion is. It’ll change your attitude about the foods you eat when you realize how many calories are in each serving of your favorite foods.

Did you know the recommended serving for ice cream is half a cup? Dreyer’s Loaded Cookie Dough ice cream has 130 calories and 4.5 grams of fat in half a cup. Not too bad, right? Now, do you know what half a cup looks like? It’s about the size of a tennis ball. Raise your hand if when you scoop yourself ice cream from the carton that it’s about the size of a tennis ball? Is your hand down? Mine is (this is exactly why I like pre-portioned ice cream)! This is a great example of why you should measure food. While most of us understand how many calories are in a portion, few of us know what a portion really looks like.

I’m not suggesting that you become so uber-conscious about measuring that you don’t eat something unless you know that food’s nutrition facts and portions. That’s a little extreme! What I am suggesting is this, if you don’t feel that you have a basic handle on correct portion sizes and nutritional information about the food you eat, you really should invest some time in measuring out and learning about the foods you love. Once you have a better understanding of these concepts, you’ll be able to make informed choices, which will lead you to making healthier decisions. It’s much easier to eat Cheesecake Factory’s Four Cheese Pasta when you have no idea when you’ve eaten one cup of pasta, or what the entire entrĂ©e’s nutritional content is. It’s much harder to eat that same pasta when you realize it's probably 10x the recommended serving size for pasta (which is half a cup) and a whopping 1,240 calories!

So please, don’t be ashamed of becoming more aware through measuring because you’re the one who will benefit from this information. Knowledge is power my friends!

For more information on portion control and weight loss, click here

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