A lot of people overeat due to a misunderstanding of portion sizes. Portion sizes are often considered serving sizes but they’re not the same. Many pre-portioned foods actually contain multiple servings. For instance, the recommend serving size for soda is 8 ounces but the standard portion is around 12 ounces, which counts as a serving and a half.

It’s important to understand that a lack of portion control can lead to overeating and, ultimately, weight gain. Luckily, getting into the habit of controlling your portion sizes isn’t as difficult as you might think. Here’s a quick and easy guide for judging serving sizes for some of the more commonly underestimated foods.

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Boiled or Baked Pasta

Pasta servings are normally listed as two ounces dry, which can be a little confusing since it’s traditionally consumed in cooked form. To get an idea of what a cooked serving looks like, picture your pasta rolled into a ball and it will look like a tennis ball.

Beans, Rice, and Mashed Potatoes

Beans, rice, and mashed potatoes are widely popular side dishes yet many people have the slightest idea of what constitutes a serving. Interestingly enough, the serving size for each is a half of a cup, which can easily be measured using an ice cream scoop.

Fish, Poultry, and Beef

A standard serving of an animal-based food source like fish, poultry, or beef is three ounces. The visual equivalent of such a serving is a single deck of playing cards. This is a far cry from the usual 12-ounce T-bone portion offered at a typical steakhouse.

Butter and Cheese

While dairy foods like butter and cheese are relatively high in fat and sodium, they aren’t as bad as many people think. Portion control is key when consuming such foods. A proper serving of butter is one teaspoon, which looks like a single die while a one-ounce serving of cheese looks like four dice.

Nuts, Seeds, and Dried Fruit

Of all the foods that warrant careful portion control nuts, seeds and dried fruit are indeed at the top of the list, as they are very calorie-dense. At an average of 130-200 calories, just 1/4 of a cup of each comprises a serving. This is about the size of a golf ball.

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In addition to using this guide, it’s also a good practice to start familiarizing yourself with serving sizes for any foods and beverages you commonly consume. You can easily do this by comparing the calorie counts and nutrient contents on product packages and food labels. Eventually you’ll learn what an appropriate portion size is just by eyeballing it, taking away the need for continuously measuring your servings.

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