The key to fat loss and optimal health is to choose whole foods. Eating healthy is not the only component to consider for successful fat loss and overall health. Portion control is to be considered as well. Portion sizes — how much you are eating — are equally important and can be easy to get wrong. In fact, most people believe that if a food choice is healthy, it can be consumed in large amounts. This way of thinking could not be further from the truth. Considering the full nutrient profile — added sugars, sodium and more, will go a long way. This is known as the health halo effect.
Once you understand the actual portion size of your foods, you can make better eating choices, log your intake more carefully and ideally get closer to reaching your goals.
Here are some of the most common portion size mistakes and tips for how to be more mindful:
Portion-size mistake: 1/2 of an avocado (or the whole thing)
Reality check: 1/3–1/5 of a medium-sized avocado
Why getting it right matters: People are adding avocado to everything these days from brownies to toast. But as healthy as these fruits are, especially when it comes to monounsaturated fats, the calories can add up quickly — 234 calories in one medium avocado. For some people, these extra calories won’t make a difference, but for others, it could mean weight gain.
The fix: Slice an avocado into quarters and eat one quarter.
2. Olive Oil
Portion-size mistake: A quick drizzle over your salad or into the frying pan, which can easily reach up to 3 tablespoons.
Reality check: 1 tablespoon, about the size of a poker chip
Why getting it right matters: Olive oil, which is rich in healthy fats (which help your body absorb vitamins A, D, E and K and promote cell growth). However, olive oil has 120 calories per tablespoon and those extra calories can add up quickly.
The fix: Whip out your measuring spoons to keep things in check or get an oil mister.
3. Fruit Smoothies
Portion-size mistake: The 20-ounce (or more) serving at smoothie shops.
Reality check: About half that: 10–12 ounces or the size of one-and-a-half standard coffee mugs
Why getting it right matters: Smoothies can be jam-packed with great nutrients, but also contains a lot of calories and sugar.
The fix: Make your own so you can control how much you consume as well as the ingredients. Filling a smoothie with vegetables and sources of protein such as nut butter helps it become a more well-rounded meal or snack.
Portion-size mistake: A bowlful — or an entree at the restaurant
Reality check: 1 cup of cooked pasta, about the size of a baseball.
Why getting it right matters: Many people avoid pasta because they think it is too high in carbohydrates and calories. If you stick with the proper serving size, it can definitely be part of a well-balanced diet.
The fix: Opt for a healthier, homemade version such as pasta loaded with lots of veggies and lean protein like grilled shrimp. Measure your portions out beforehand and store the rest away for tasty leftovers.
Portion-size mistake: Enough to fill your cereal bowl
Reality check: 1/4–1/3 a cup or 1–2 shot glasses (about what you can fit in your palm)
Why getting it right matters: Granola tends to be high in calories and fat and many store-bought varieties have added sugars, yielding around 400–500 calories per cup, plus more than 20 grams of sugar.
The fix: Make your own granola with natural sweeteners from fruit and use it as a topping for yogurt or veggie-packed smoothies.
6. Frozen Yogurt and Ice Cream
Portion-size mistake: 1–2 cups or 2–4 scoops
Reality check: 1/2 cup or about 1 scoop
Why getting it right matters: Not all frozen yogurts are healthier than their ice cream counterpart. Some frozen yogurts have even more calories than a scoop of traditional plain ice cream. By overestimating serving sizes, you are adding more saturated fats to your diet.
The fix: Try making healthier versions such as this banana berry “nice” cream (vegan ice cream) or these frozen treats and indulge in the real deal as part of a well-balanced diet.
7. Bagel and Cream Cheese
Portion-size mistake: A whole bagel from a bagel shop or cafe with 4–5 tablespoons of cream cheese
Reality check: The size of an English muffin or Lender’s bagel (e.g., 2 ounces instead of 4) and 1.5–2 tablespoons of cream cheese
Why getting it right matters: Diabetes and pre-diabetes — conditions where your body does not properly process food into energy — are, in part, brought about by excess added sugars, which bagels tend to be high in. Plus, overdoing the cream cheese means you are getting extra calories and saturated fat.
The fix: Go easy on the cream cheese and consider smaller bagels or half of a bagel-shop bagel. It is a good idea to opt for healthier toppings such as protein-rich hummus.