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How to Weigh Food Without a Scale

author image Elizabeth Donahue, R.D., L.D.N.
Elizabeth Donahue is a clinical dietitian in a pediatric special-needs clinic. She is a registered dietitian with the American Dietetic Association, a licensed nutritionist with the State of Florida and has been certified as a breastfeeding specialist by Lactation Education Resources. Donahue holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and nutrition from Florida International University.
How to Weigh Food Without a Scale
This filet is about the size of two decks of cards. Photo Credit: Jag_cz/iStock/Getty Images

Two important aspects of a healthy diet are quality and quantity. If you are eating all the right foods and still having trouble losing weight, you might be suffering from "portion distortion," a condition in which you have lost the ability to determine the normal portion size you should be consuming. The prevalence of huge serving sizes in America probably contributes to the nation's overwhelming obesity rate. Since it is awkward to carry around a food scale, you can use this alternative technique for measuring your portions.

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Step 1

Learn common serving sizes.The amount of food on your plate at a restaurant is not the serving size you should be eating, nor can you always trust the serving size of packaged food. For example, a typical steakhouse steak can be anywhere from 7 to 20 ounces, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended serving size for meat is about 3 ounces, with a recommended 5 to 6 ounces for the entire day. Other recommended serving sizes include 1-1/2 ounces of cheese, 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta, and 1/2 cup of fresh fruit.

Step 2

Compare with common objects. Now that you know the serving sizes, you need a way to measure them without a scale. To do this, compare your portions with household objects. For example, a 3-ounce steak is about the size of a deck of cards, 1-1/2 ounces of cheese looks like 3 dice, a slice of bread should be the size of a cassette tape, and 1/2 cup of pasta, rice or fruit should be no bigger than half of a baseball. Use these comparisons to measure your serving sizes.

Step 3

Test yourself. Before ditching the food scale for good, test your new ability for accuracy. Measure out some food by hand and eye, and compare it to the recommended serving size. If you are relatively accurate, you are ready to take your new skill on the road, to your favorite restaurant or right in your own kitchen.

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