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Weighing foods/Portion Control

I think this belongs here but feel free to move....

I have gotten serious about diet and exercise however being a 'hound I refuse to buy into any diet that eliminates whole food groups. Instead I am eating what I love just smaller portions of them. However I have a question about weights and measures. Can any of you help me out or point me to a web site with guidelines. I am tracking what I eat and want to make sure I am accounting for what I eat correctly.

For example:

1) Should meat/fish be weighed before or after cooking? I noticed that a 6 oz pc of fish ends up at 5.5 oz after cooking.

2) Is 1 cup and 8 oz's truly equal? I get a lot more blueberries when I measure out 8 oz's on a scale than I do putting them in a cup. Same with bigger grain cereals, cooked pasta etc. If a serving size is 1 cup am I "cheating" by eating 8 oz?

3) Are there truly any "free" foods, foods you can munch with no guilt?

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  1. The only "free" food I know of is popcorn, no butter. You can add spices to make it more interesting - I like mine with chile oil.

    1. 1) Before
      2) Weight and volume are different measurements. A cup of feathers weighs less than a cup of bricks.
      3) If you feel guilty, you're on the wrong diet. But, that said, it's hard to gain weight by gorging on celery, or most non-sweet, non-starchy veggies.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Whippet

        On the weighing before or after thing, it depends a bit on what you're comparing it to. Weight Watchers points are usually based on cooked weights, for example, as are the serving portions in the new USDA food pyramid thing.

        1. re: Whippet

          Yep, celery is a truly "free" food . . . unless of course you dip it in chocolate!

        2. 1) Weighed before... and for reference, each 3 oz. portion of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards before cooking. May sound small but you can always "stretch" the amount by incorporating them into heartier entrees, say a pasta/salad dish.

          2) there's the mass ounce and volume ounce (also known as fluid ounce) - the two do not necessarily equal one another. In your case with the blueberries, 1 cup's worth will probably not equal 8 ounces in weight due to air that's also taking up space.

          3) leafy veggies, popcorn, rice cakes -- non-salty spices for flavoring. but as noted above, if a diet is making you feel guilty, probably time to switch before you crash and over-binge.

          1. I'm not an expert in food weights and measures so I'll focus on #3. I agree with what whippet said above. But as food for thought, if you really have become more serious about healthy eating and fitness, you can actually liberate yourself from caring about .5 ounces of fish.

            I don't give much thought at all when eating the following (sure, there's some sugar here and sodium there but again, it's within the context of serious exercise). This could virtually be the core of my weekly grocery list:

            - Multi grain toast with a tablespoon of creamed honey or Nutella (about 100 calories total, very little fat, high fiber)

            - Organic, grainy, fiber filled bars. I currently have Health Valley brand Apple Bakes and Date Bakes in my desk drawer. (70 calories, no fat, relatively high fiber and ridiculously filling for what they are)

            - Hummus. On crackers or crammed into a whole wheat pita pocket with spinach leaves, sprouts, etc. Hummus is a great substitute for butter/mayo on cold cut sandwiches.

            - Avocados with tunafish (I just eat a half of an avocado with a couple spoons of tunafish)

            - Copious amounts of water periodically flavored with Crystal Light "On the Go" flavors for variety.

            - Fish. Grilled or baked, I let myself eat as much as I want. Fish tacos are staple when I want to go out for lunch.

            - Vegetables in general. Some of the salads I make are laughable with how big they are. I go easy on the dressing (Newman's Own Low Cal/Low Fat Honey Mustard is the current) but sometimes add nuts, seeds a little cheese and/or chicken breast.

            - High fiber cereals like Kashi brand with a touch of sweetness or fresh fruit added somehow.

            - Beans, but especially black beans. Cooking Light Magazine, a few years back had a great couscous, corn, and black bean tomatillo salad. I recently put some leftover lean pork roast shreds into it and discovered it tastes almost exactly like the carnitas filling in a Chipotle burrito but much, much healthier.

            - In the winter, natural soups, avoiding the cream-based stuff. Just be cautious of the sodium here.

            - Honestly, I eat a lot of Lean Cuisines too being that I have a standard 8-to-5. Their panini sandwiches are fine, as are the deep dish pizza and a couple of their entrees (Lemongrass Chicken with brown rice is actually borderline chow-worthy). Supplemented with fruit and some of the above snacks sprinkled in, it gets me through the day.

            Unfortunately, I don't have much to offer in the arena of truly free foods. The only things that are "truly free", aside from my Crystal Light packets are things like raw celery and rice cakes. Who wants to gnaw on that day after day? Plus, if you're dedicated to exercise, "truly free" is synonymous with "truly free of energy benefit". A rice cake and a celery stick won't power you to a 5k finish line or to the summit of your local hiking trail.

            Good luck with it!

            9 Replies
            1. re: MSPD

              Thank you! your post was very helpful.

              As I said in my OP I am NOT on a diet. I am just eating less of the foods I love. My food issue is that I eat to fill a void and I know diets don't work for me so I am no longer am trying to *diet*. I am just trying to eat less and exercise more. I am not denying myself any foods. However what I was looking for were foods (other than the ubiquitous celery and carrots) that I could munch on that were not high in calories. Not because I feel *guilty* but more for when the old oral fixation kicks in because I am bored, nervous, anxious.

              1. re: foodieX2

                I'm doing the same thing. Was discovered that my blood pressure is high and the doc wants me to lose some weight. There is a program called DASH (dietary approach to stop hypertension), you can Google it. It's a very nice approach with portion controls listed on all areas, meats, grains, fruits, etc. Just the cutting back on the size of portions I use to eat PLUS daily walking has resulted in weight lose already. Of course, I now also look for items that are low in sodium and sugar.

                Good luck.

                1. re: foodieX2

                  If you're not on a strict diet, just eating less, can't you just eyeball it? I really wouldn't stress about the added calories of half an ounce of fish. . .

                  That said, Americans tend to eat much more than what "normal" portion sizes are -- but I know I don't have the patience to measure and weigh everything. Here's a handy "eyeball" guide from the American Cancer Society on portion sizes: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/con...

                  HOWEVER: If I ever see a bagel the size of a hockey puck, I'd run in the other direction! :-P

                  1. re: Covert Ops

                    Weight is much more accurate than eyeballing volume. The magnitude of error by eyeballing over time is worth many pounds, believe it or not (All you need to be off is 100 calories a day to go up 10 lbs in a year, which by the way is a much more plausible explanation for rampant obesity than massive gorge-fests....). I speak from experience. Keeping a meticulous food diary by objective measurement is the best way.

                2. re: MSPD

                  "Multi grain toast with a tablespoon of creamed honey or Nutella (about 100 calories total, very little fat, high fiber)"

                  May I ask what kind of bread you're using? It's my understanding that a tablespoon of honey is about 60 calories and a slice of bread is usually around 100. I'd love to find a tasty ultra-low calorie bread.

                  1. re: Humbucker

                    Sorry...100 or 160 -- whatever. You're probably right -- I posted from here at my desk using the words "about 100" very liberally. I don't have a bag of bread and a container of creamed honey in here at work (I *was* reading off the Apple Bakes box though!). Incidentally, if memory serves me correctly, the serving size on honey, peanut butter and Nutella are all 2 tbsp. I don't recall exactly, but I always think, "there's no way I'm using that much on my piece of toast". I've got to be closer to half of that -- I don't glop it on.

                    My current bread of choice (giant-sized grocery store choice, that is) is some kind of 15-whole grains bread with no preservatives that I got at Cub Foods in MSP. I suspect my preferred breads are a teeny bit higher in calories as I sometimes like nuts and seeds in there (I think "Health Nut" bread is in this category, but has preservatives).

                    But this highlights a couple of things I was trying to convey in my post:

                    - I'm speaking to those with no strict dietary restrictions on calories, carbs, protein, sodium, gluten, etc. If one has "ultra low calorie" requirements, or low carb, low sodium, etc. my post was not useful/designed for those people.

                    - If you are equally dedicated to fitness and nutrition, you needn't worry about .5 ounces of fish or, in this case, a miniscule 60 calories.

                    - I'd much rather get 60 calories from honey or peanut butter than something like processed, imitation cheese spread or a 1/8 bag of plain potato chips. When I know they're not "empty calories" and I'm going to use them for fuel, I don't really care about that amount of calories.

                    - I recognize the carbohydrates in honey are almost all from sugars. Not necessarily the optimum way to get fuel, but in the grand scheme of things, better than refined sugars.

                    For me, it's all about eating better, not eating perfect.

                  2. re: MSPD

                    those health valley apple bakes and date bakes... are they not listed on their website? http://www.healthvalley.com/products/... or do you have the calorie information incorrect? i'm looking for a healthy, <100 calorie snack/breakfast bar.

                    1. re: rolypoly

                      Strange. They're not listed, but if you do a search for "date bake" on their site you get those products. The packaging looks a little different -- I wonder if they discontinued the bakes. The "use by" date on my box is August 12, 06 (I'd better get eating). Here's the link:


                      One thing I don't like about this particular bar, aside from not being the most chowish snack -- the serving size is one bar, but there are two bars in each pouch. So you either have to leave the pouch open in the box, ziploc them or eat two servings at once. Not ideal for me as I usually only eat one per day.

                      1. re: MSPD

                        i do the same with the nature valley bars. it comes 2 to a pack and i only eat one. a little annoying.

                  3. If you are counting calories by weight, the caloric values for flesh are usually given for *cooked* unless raw or uncooked is specified explicitly.

                    The best way to end the uncertainty is to buy the source for the vast majority of nutrition data in the USA since 1937: Bowe & Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. That's the bible that the USDA and almost all software and industry uses to calculate their data, and the major chains supply their data to it as well. A new edition was released 18 months ago. Bowe & Church's provides a weight in grams for virtually everything and specifies raw values vs cooked for flesh, et cet. It's worth every penny.

                    1. Although it's always good to munch on raw veggies, personally I think it's more helpful to try and address the oral fixation then to give into it. One way to do this is to try the "No S" diet for a few days, which isn't really a diet -- it's just no snacks, no sugar, no seconds. You'll quickly realize that if you eat a decent-sized meal of whole foods, there is absolutely no reason to snack in-between. To get over the hump, try sugarless gum and iced or hot tea. I've been doing much better with snacking since I just decided that it's better not to do it than to take all kinds of low-cal, "healthy" snacks to work all day, which tends to get me more fixated on them. If I'm really hungry in the afternoon, an apple usually holds me unless I'm really stressing out over something.

                      1. #3 - According to my doctor, Kimchi (the kind without the oysters) is so close to "free" you could eat it all day and not gain an ounce. In addition, you'd soon notice that annoying people (actually, ALL people) were staying a lot farther from you than before.

                        1. Yeah, kim chee, dill pickles, celery, lettuce -- all "free" and yet all of little use if you're craving chips, pretzels, cookies or candy. If you cut most of the sugar out of your diet except the occasional dessert after a healthy dinner, most of the cravings will disappear. I found eating sugar between meals was making my blood sugar go crazy, and making me think I needed lots of small meals to manage it. I started eating smaller breakfasts and trying to stay away from office treats during the day, and the blood sugar problems went away.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Chowpatty

                            For me, having some protein at breakfast and lunch and little or no sugary food seems to ward off the desire to snack. I've been eating cottage cheese with fruit for breakfast, and I feel full all morning. My husband has been making Egg Beater omelettes, same thing. My best lunch is a big salad with grilled chicken or maybe goat cheese and walnuts -- lots of volume of veggies, and a serving of protein.

                            1. re: Chowpatty

                              Kimchee, pickles, celery, lettuce -- those are all high in sodium, ranging from very high (kimchee) to moderately so. Thus, beware if you have hypertension.

                            2. Hello,

                              I am in the process of becoming a dietician...I am still in university.

                              First, it s great that iyou are not going the no-carb, no-fat, or cabbage soup diet route.

                              Eating a balanced variety of foods is the ideal along with some physical activity.

                              Have you checked out any governemtn sites for the Food Guide (for Canada) or the food pyramid (US).

                              As for a free food...there is no non-calorie food. Rice cakes, popcorn etc are high on the glycemic index and can spike your blood sugar. Also, there is no one ideal food that you can just eat without being conscoius of how much you are eating.


                              1. I can speak from long experience as a diet failure and finally as a person who has maintained a long-term major weight loss.

                                As long as you stay under the number of calories necessary to lose a couple of pounds a week, and eat a balanced diet, you will lose weight.

                                Eat only when hungry. Listen for the little voice that will tell you, "Hmmm...I've had enough now" or something similar. The little voice is there, but at the beginning it's subtle. Stop when full.

                                You'll have slips, forgive yourself and eat well afterward.

                                Do exercize you enjoy. Walking for pleasure may be easiest.

                                Eat ONLY what is delicious. Vegetables should be made delicious.

                                Weight Watchers - do they have an informational website? You can trust them.

                                Drink a lot of tea and water.

                                Avoid empty calories: refined sugars, fats and refined starches.

                                Love yourself, only lose weight because you want to do what's best for yourself.