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hurley8604

Calculating a serving size

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When making a recipe from a website or a cookbook, I've noticed a lot of times it just says "serves 4" or "serving size = 7". But it never actually tells you how much that is. Some things are easy to figure out. If it's a recipe with 2 chicken breasts and it says it serves 4, I'm going to assume a half breast is 1 serving. But some things just aren't as easy. I posted about this in my current challenge, but thought I'd reach out to the entire community.

 

The recipe I want to try this weekend is a slow cooker chicken enchilada casserole. I put all the ingredients into the recipe builder over at Sparkpeople, put the serving size to 7 as stated, and got the calories. But, how do I know how much food to actually take? It's made in a 6 quart slow cooker. 

 

I don't have a food scale, and don't have the budget or the place to put one (very tiny kitchen). But I do have measuring cups, and this seems like an easy one to just put in a cup to measure out. 

 

I'm also horrible at math.

 

So, how do I figure out how many cups something is when all I get are calories and serving size?

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Well, the lazy answer would be that you should just spend the $10 on a food scale. ;) It can fit pretty much anywhere, especially on it's side. https://www.amazon.com/EPAuto-Digital-Multifunction-Capacity-Precision/dp/B01CYWIYIQ/ref=sr_1_2?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1495122237&sr=1-2-spons&keywords=scale&psc=1

 

Failing that, you can portion the whole thing out - take out 7 containers, and spoon in roughly equal amounts into each. Start with one spoon into all 7, then a second spoon, and so on and so forth. OR, you can use water to measure out the levels on your slow cooker - the physical 'line' for 1L, 2L, 3L, 4L, etc., and then you'll have a rough volume to divide into 7. Best of luck, remember that calories are only ever a rough estimate, so don't make yourself crazy keeping things perfect. :D 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, Defining said:

 

Well, the lazy answer would be that you should just spend the $10 on a food scale. ;) It can fit pretty much anywhere, especially on it's side. https://www.amazon.com/EPAuto-Digital-Multifunction-Capacity-Precision/dp/B01CYWIYIQ/ref=sr_1_2?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1495122237&sr=1-2-spons&keywords=scale&psc=1

 

Failing that, you can portion the whole thing out - take out 7 containers, and spoon in roughly equal amounts into each. Start with one spoon into all 7, then a second spoon, and so on and so forth. OR, you can use water to measure out the levels on your slow cooker - the physical 'line' for 1L, 2L, 3L, 4L, etc., and then you'll have a rough volume to divide into 7. Best of luck, remember that calories are only ever a rough estimate, so don't make yourself crazy keeping things perfect. :D 

 

 

^This

 

Food scales are actually pretty small and cheap.  I have one that folds up, even, so you can store it in a drawer until you need it.  Serving size is best done by weight, and not volume, in my opinion, because it evens everything out. (As in it's a hell of a lot easier to compare 100g of potato to 100g of broccoli, compared to trying to fit either of those into a measuring cup.)

 

Otherwise, again, pre-portion things into how many servings you are told are there and store it that way, rather than in one giant pot.  I usually got that route when I'm making a recipe on the fly that's mixed (think meat sauces, curries, chili) and I estimate how many meals I should get out of everything.

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Also worth noting. Day to day fluctuations in calorie intake aren't as important as long term trends. So if you are going to eat the whole thing eventually anyway, just go with estimated serving sizes. The total calories will add up so putting in a serving in whatever calorie tracking you are doing will work out fine in the long run.

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That is very true. I'm just focusing on serving size right now, because I think mine have gotten skewed. What I think is a cup of cereal, is more like 2. So I'm just trying to get back into measuring everything again.

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The ones that I had looked at needed you to actually weigh the food, which I can't do until I get to the store and get a food scale. Maybe I'll look some more and see if there are other ones.

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Typically, when I build a recipe, I use myfitness pal, I build it with all the ingredients and give it a realistic serving size (i.e. what I would typically put on my plate). If the calories look "acceptable" I use that as my "serving size."

 

I also hate doing math and have found fractions to work best. So if I make a pot full of pulled chicken thighs, I ask myself-how many meals am I getting out of this pot. 

 

I also do not use a food scale (and don't have any current plans to). I tend to do fractions, if the recipe calls for 7 servings, I would do a 1/7th of it (but also keeping in mind what someone calls a serving might not fill me up or take care of what I need to eat for the meal/day. 

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Is it realistic to be measuring and weighing everything, a set of scales should have been first on the list before anything. Keep up the good work anyway, and good luck.

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1 hour ago, JonWalter said:

Is it realistic to be measuring and weighing everything, a set of scales should have been first on the list before anything. Keep up the good work anyway, and good luck.

 

Not realistic for long term. But, short term, yes. It will help identify where I've strayed. When I was full force measuring years ago, I didn't use the scale all that much - still lost 40 pounds. But, it's still on my list to buy to have at hand.

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4 hours ago, hurley8604 said:

Not realistic for long term.

 

Strongly disagree.  I've been measuring things pretty consistently for 5 years now.  Yes, I take breaks where I'm less stringent, but more often than not I'm tracking my food and that involves measuring it at least with some well-worn eyeballing.  It's a habit - it can be built into your routine just as much as making it to the gym on a regular schedule can be.

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If you can wash hands and pray before meals, as millions of people do, weighing your food before you eat it cannot be that hard. 

 

For some folks, that momentary pause between seeing dinner and scarfing it is actually very useful in managing their diet.  It helps engage the higher brain at a moment when the reptile brain is likely to seize control.  Your inner beastie must be fed, but you are the keeper, and you get to decide what, when, and how much it eats.

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57 minutes ago, RisenPhoenix said:

 

Strongly disagree.  I've been measuring things pretty consistently for 5 years now.  Yes, I take breaks where I'm less stringent, but more often than not I'm tracking my food and that involves measuring it at least with some well-worn eyeballing.  It's a habit - it can be built into your routine just as much as making it to the gym on a regular schedule can be.

 

That's awesome that you've been able to keep it up for so long. But for me, personally, I just know it's not something that I would be able to keep up. It'll be more of a measure things now and remember how they look on my plate and just go from there. And then every once in awhile check back in and see if I've been able to keep the measurements right. 

 

There were MANY factors in my weight gain, portion sizes just being a small part of it. I'm still figuring out some other aspects - still convinced that there is an undiagnosed medical reason, but I won't stray into that here. 

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6 hours ago, hurley8604 said:

 

That's awesome that you've been able to keep it up for so long. But for me, personally, I just know it's not something that I would be able to keep up. It'll be more of a measure things now and remember how they look on my plate and just go from there. And then every once in awhile check back in and see if I've been able to keep the measurements right. 

 

There were MANY factors in my weight gain, portion sizes just being a small part of it. I'm still figuring out some other aspects - still convinced that there is an undiagnosed medical reason, but I won't stray into that here. 

 

I totally understand trackin. As not being everyone's cup of tea. I just want it know that it's NOT impossible to maintain for extended periods of time. My girlfriend on the other hand is terrible with tracking long term - so she tends to eat closer to paleo all the time. 

 

We all got what works works for us!

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6 hours ago, hurley8604 said:

still convinced that there is an undiagnosed medical reason, but I won't stray into that here

 

I think there's a lot more evidence for the hormonal theory of weight gain than there is for CICO.  CICO is like saying "all death is caused by heart failure"; not technically false, but also not meaningfully true or medically useful.  The evidence for CICO as the actual root cause of weight gain or loss seems pretty poor.  So yeah, there probably was another undiagnosed reason that set up the situation.

 

Scales are awesome, for two reasons: first, measuring by volume is frequently inaccurate and guesstimatey, and second, you don't need to get any volume measures dirty, so your dirty dishes are fewer.  (Also, in my food logger, "grams" is always an option, even when the other options don't look useful to me, so I can't go wrong with grams.)

 

What scales and measuring cups will not do well for you is help you accurately measure something you calculated the calories for and then cooked, unless you go through an extra step, and that step is mathy.  The problem is evaporation of water - what it weighs after you cook it is very different from what it weighs before you cook it.  (This is also why your cookbooks can't really tell you how big a serving is, because there can be huge variation in water evaporation when you cook it.  There are no guarantees on the weight or volume of a cooked recipe.)  To do that, you'd need two steps.  First calculate the calories in the recipe.  Next weigh the finished recipe, so you know what the cooked version weighs.  Then you need to calculate the relationship between the two.  (You have to remove it from the pot so you don't count the weight of the pot, so you will get an extra pot dirty.)  Honestly, the easiest thing to do might be to spend that $10 on a stack of takeout containers from Amazon and actually serve out all seven individual servings, like Defining suggests.  Or not make recipes larger than four serving sizes.  Up to four is pretty easy to eyeball when you're serving.

 

If it's a slow cooker, maybe you can assume no significant evaporation of water, so if you get the weight of everything that goes in, including the water, then you can just divide.  That's not too hard with a scale.  You can put the insert on the scale, tare out the weight of the insert, then weigh the ingredients as you add them.  That'll give you the uncooked weight, which should be close to the cooked weight, and you can use that to get the weight of your servings.  There'll be a little water evaporation, but not so much that I'd worry about it, I think.

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On 6/8/2017 at 1:29 PM, RisenPhoenix said:

 

Strongly disagree.  I've been measuring things pretty consistently for 5 years now.  Yes, I take breaks where I'm less stringent, but more often than not I'm tracking my food and that involves measuring it at least with some well-worn eyeballing.  It's a habit - it can be built into your routine just as much as making it to the gym on a regular schedule can be.

 

Also disagree. Been doing it solid for 3 months - work trips excepted only because the scale would get broken in the carry-on - and honestly it takes maybe ten seconds longer than eyeballing now that I'm used to it.

 

I met with a nutritionist last month and one of the big thing she said is that Health Canada would prefer everyone weigh stuff because a volume estimate can vary by up to 50% for dry things - think the difference between packed brown sugar vs unpacked, or new cereal vs the dregs at the bottom that have all been beaten into a fine powder. However most people get scared by scales and don't want to bother with it, so HC uses volume estimates. But mass really is the way to go if you want to control your calories and macros. 

 

That said, I am a chemist by training and used to work in a bakery so weighing ALL THE THINGS has long been trained into me. 

With regard to causes of weight gain: I hear you on medical issues: PCOS runs in my family, so I do have some relatives who genuinely have a hard - if not impossible - time maintaining weight. For me, portion sizes and calories in vs calories out is king. The mesomorph is strong in this one and how I look is a direct reflection of how I've been doing on diet and exercise, for good or ill. Even when I was sick with my asthma and lost 40lbs a few years back (long story. Moral: Get your flu shot if you're asthmatic, even if you have a needle phobia), that was because I couldn't breathe well enough to eat enough so the calories in were too low. Different strokes for different folks.

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Do you also find that the portion sizes given are usually ridiculously small?  Feeds 4 = feeds two, with a little leftover for the dog.  I measured out a portion, according to the packet, of cereal the other day and it wasn't even enough for one of the twins (8yo) breakfast let alone an adults!

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It depends, but mostly yes. And cereal is the worst offender! I measured out, I think it was honey nut cheerios once and was like "this is it? I'm going to be hungry again in an hour!"

 

 

Then there are somethings that I measure out and am like "I can't eat that much!" I think jambalaya was one, and couscous was another.

 

 

Sent from my SM-G930T using Tapatalk

 

 

 

 

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I was reading a book recently and while I had many, many issues with the way it talked about serving sizes, it did have some useful information right up front. It's called "The Portion Teller" by Lisa R Young, and it's all about calculating serving sizes and portions through an eyeballing method. 

 

My main issues with the two methods given ("compare to an item you see regularly" and "compare to the size of your hand") were that the items she gave were a. not things I am necessarily familiar with and b. not necessarily the sizes she thought they were (a tennis ball is not 3/4 the size of a baseball, for example) and the hand sizes were unclear (just what is the tip of my finger? the pad? the space between the nail and the pad? the nail itself?). 

 

However, I did think that if you weighing was not your style and you really wanted to be able to eyeball things, this method would be fine if adopted. What you would do would be measure out a serving of the things you eat regularly, and find a household object that was of comparable size, and then note that down. Then next time you know that you can eat about one shampoo bottle of rice or whatever it ends up being. Just measure things as you make them until eventually you have a decent functioning list. 

 

Or get a scale. 

 

 

....I suddenly remembered I got that book from the library. I better return it pronto lol. 

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