Identifying the Three-Ounce Filet: Practicing Portion Control at Office Meals

Posted by on Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 with Comments Off on Identifying the Three-Ounce Filet: Practicing Portion Control at Office Meals Comments

Anyone who has tried to read up on healthy eating and weight loss is probably very familiar with the term “portion control”. But what, exactly, does portion control mean? And how can we put portion control to practice in our daily lives — especially in the office, when takeout lunches and catering tables are in ample supply?

The truth is, we all encounter two portions or serving sizes in our daily lives: the portions we’re actually served (or serve ourselves) and the portions that are recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

buffet table from above

Portion control at a catered event can be a challenge.
Image source: flickr user Univeristy of Michigan’s Ford School

Wait — let’s clarify. You may not actually encounter the USDA-recommended serving sizes, unless you make a point to practice vigilant portion control on your own. Most packaged foods and restaurant dishes are quite larger than the recommended portions, but with a little research — and some visual aids — you can learn to estimate pretty accurate portion sizes, even during office lunches. And as nutrition experts suggest, this skill may be key to achieving weight loss and diet goals.

With that in mind, let’s examine both the recommended daily intake (now measured in cups & ounces instead of more ambiguous “servings”) from the USDA, as well as what reasonable portions from each food group might look like:

Protein (5 – 6.5 ounces per day recommended)

Meat: a 3-ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards

Fish fillet: a 3-ounce serving is about size of a checkbook

Lentil/bean soup: a 2-ounce serving is one cup of soup

Eggs: one egg is a 1-ounce serving (this one’s easy!)

Peanut butter: a 2-ounce serving is 2 tablespoons, about the size of a ping pong ball

peanuts on food scale

Scales & measuring cups aren’t necessary when estimating portion size.
Image source: bradleypjohnson

Grains (5-8 ounces per day recommended, at least half from whole grains)

Pasta & rice: one 2-ounce serving is one cup of cooked pasta or rice, about the size of a tennis ball

Bagels: one large bagel is usually a 4-ounce serving (yikes!)

Oatmeal: one packet of instant oatmeal (or 1/2 cup cooked) is a 1-ounce serving

Bread: two slices of bread make a 2-ounce serving

Fruits (1.5 – 2 cups per day recommended)

Apples: 1 small apple is one cup

Bananas: 1 large banana is one cup

Oranges: 1 large orange is one cup

Strawberries: 8 large strawberries equals one cup

Grapes: 32 grapes equals one cup

Steak with pyramid of rice

Aim for a balanced plate.
Image source: flickr user

Veggies (2-3 cups per day recommended)

Sweet potatoes: 1 large sweet potato is one cup

Carrots: 12 baby carrots equals one cup

Bell peppers: 1 large bell pepper is one cup

Corn: 1 large ear of corn is one cup

Greens/spinach: 2 cups raw or 1 cup cooked is a one cup serving; 1 cup is about the size of a baseball

Oils/fats (5-7 teaspoons per day recommended)

Mayonnaise: 2 teaspoons is about the size of two dice

Butter: 1 teaspoon is the size of a postage stamp

Dairy (3 cups per day recommended, but choose low-fat varieties)

Note: Recommended allowance is 3 cups per day, but choose low-fat varieties

Yogurt: one 8-ounce container is one cup of dairy serving

Cheese: 1.5-ounce serving of cheese is one cup of dairy serving; about the size of eight or nine dice

Cottage cheese: 2 cups of cottage cheese equals one cup of dairy serving

portion size example with deck of cards

A deck of cards is a good rule of thumb when it comes to meat servings.
Image source: flickr user **RCB**

Bottom Line:

What do proper portion sizes look like when it comes to office meals?

At a breakfast meeting: half a bagel with half a Ping-pong ball-sized serving of peanut butter; an 8-ounce container of yogurt; a whole banana

From the Chinese takeout spread: a deck-of-cards-sized serving of pork or beef; a tennis ball-sized pile of rice; a baseball-sized pile of garlicky spinach or broccoli

From the conference catering table: a checkbook-sized piece of salmon or a cup of lentil soup; a tennis ball-sized scoop of whole wheat pasta; a baked sweet potato; a dish of 8 large strawberries for dessert

This may be tricky at first, especially if you’re used to consuming the entire portion plopped on your plate or stuffed into a takeout box. The first step, though, is simply knowing what a good portion size looks like… then you can practice only going back for seconds of the veggies and fruits, instead of the bagels and pasta!

Catering and takeout at the office doesn’t have to be a challenge for health-conscious employees. makes it simple and straightforward to order a wide variety of nutritious foods so that every food group can be represented in the lunch room!

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

Comments are closed.