Guesstimate Your Portions

Help yourself! Dishing up just-right amounts can be easier than you think.
Published July 12, 2016 | Updated November 3, 2022

Getting serving sizes right is often tougher than you think—yet it's one of the keys to helping you lose weight and keep it off. Using tools like measuring cups and food scales makes it easy to dole out perfect portions of just about any food, drink or ingredient when you’re at home. But toting those tools around when you’re at a party or a picnic or a backyard barbecue or a food festival or any other deliciously dangerous event of summer? That isn't going to cut it.

Use your guess-timating skills and brush up on portion equivalents so you can easily (and often stealthily) use visual match-ups anywhere, anytime.  And when you're home this week, weigh and measure your food and beverages; the more you measure, the easier it'll be to gauge accurate portions when you're not home.

Train your brain to recognize the right size
Whenever you measure and serve yourself, take a mental snapshot: "Here's what one cup of couscous looks like. This is a teaspoon of butter." Then no matter where you're dining — the office cafeteria, a food court at the mall, or your favourite Chinese buffet — you'll feel more confident in your ability to eyeball the right size. And if you need a few ideas, the list below is a good place to start.

On the go       

  • Lip balm         1-ounce serving of cheese
  • Folding wallet            1-ounce slice of French bread
  • Sunglasses     6-ounce fish fillet

At a sporting event  

  • Hockey puck  ½ cup serving of mashed potatoes, beans, or ice cream
  • Golf ball          ¼ cup of nuts
  • Baseball          1 medium piece of fruit
  • Tennis ball     1 cup serving of rice

In the office   

  • Roll of transparent tape       1 small piece of fruit
  • Standard pink eraser            1-ounce serving of cheese
  • 2" x 2" self-stick note            1 brownie

At a restaurant or hotel      

  • Tea cup          1 cup of cooked pasta or rice
  • Half an orange           ½ cup of coleslaw
  • Mini bar of soap        1-ounce serving of cheese

On a business trip or vacation        

  • CD/DVD         Large bagel or 1 pancake
  • USB thumb drive       1-ounce serving of cheese
  • Pocket digital camera           3-ounce serving of meat