8 Healthy Foods You Actually Need to Measure Out

8 Healthy Foods You Actually Need to Measure Out


By Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN. Originally published by US News & World Report 

Moderation, moderation, moderation – that’s probably the word you’ve heard us dietitians say most. Although moderation can mean advice like “eat a maximum of one whole egg per day” or “eat fish three times a week,” sometimes you need to get more specific and whip out your measuring gear to make sure you’re actually eating a moderate portion.

One of the biggest misconceptions about healthy eating is that if a food is healthy, eating even more of it is healthier. That sentiment could not be further from the truth. First, when you eat too much of one food, you can’t always properly absorb the nutrient you may be trying to obtain. This is the case with dairy products like milk and yogurt – the body most efficiently absorbs calcium when you eat 500 milligrams in one sitting. If you’re a yogurt lover, you may want to indulge in two or three cups – each containing about 450 milligrams – at a time, but doing so makes the absorption of calcium less efficient. Your best bet is to divide your servings of yogurt (or other dairy foods) throughout the day.

It’s also important to eat healthy foods in moderation because eating too much of one food may mean sacrificing other healthy foods. This is a variety issue. The wider variety of foods you eat, the more vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (plant chemicals that help prevent and fight disease) you potentially take in. Loading up on a single food is just not a smart move, as you may end up feeling full instead of choosing other foods to complement it with.

Lastly, some of these nutrient-packed, healthy foods are also packed with calories. That’s where many folks tend to have a problem. Yes, almonds are a healthy snack, but eating four or five handfuls throughout the day can actually add up to hundreds of calories, if not more, and sabotage your healthy eating plan. While you don’t have to measure out everything, these eight foods are worth portioning in order to avoid unwanted weight gain. Once you get the gist of portion sizes, which may take a few weeks, you should be able to pack away those measuring cups and spoons.

1. Almonds

Almonds are an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin E, and contain numerous flavonoids, which are shown to help prevent cancer and decrease the risk of heart disease. One ounce (or 23 almonds) contains 162 calories, 14 grams of fat, six grams of protein and three grams of fiber. One ounce is about a small handful, so if you’re digging into that bag four times a day, that can easily add up to close to 650 calories.

Reasonable portion: 23 almonds for a snack or two tablespoons of sliced almonds for a topper, like on salads or yogurt

2. Salad Dressing

Vinaigrettes, or oil-based dressings, have more unsaturated fat than artery-clogging saturated fat, which is a good thing. However, with 100 to 150 calories per a two-tablespoon serving, you need to be careful to not over-pour.

Reasonable portion: Two tablespoons

3. Avocado

These babies are chock-full of nutrition with a one-ounce serving (or one-fifth of the fruit) containing 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. However, an average avocado provides about 322 calories – if you eat the whole thing.

Reasonable portion: One-quarter avocado

4. Peanut Butter

This beloved spread is consumed in 94 percent of U.S. households. Two tablespoons of the nutty stuff contains 188 calories, 16 grams of fat, eight grams of protein, two grams of fiber and is an excellent source of niacin. It’s also a good source of vitamin E, magnesium and phosphorus. But spoon that peanut-y goodness right out of the jar, and you may find yourself shoveling in thousands of extra calories.

 Reasonable portion: Two tablespoons for a meal (like in a sandwich) and one tablespoon for a snack

5. Granola

You basic granola includes oats, oil, a sweetener (like honey) and crisps or flakes made from wheat or rice. The basic variety provides an average of 100 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, three grams of protein, 1.5 grams of fiber and six grams of sugar per quarter cup. Other varieties that include dried fruits, nuts and coconut contain more. Top a morning yogurt with one cup of granola and you’re talking about an added 400 calories.

Reasonable portion: Two to four tablespoons to sprinkle over oatmeal, yogurt or a salad

6. Oil

No matter your oil of choice – canola, olive, peanut or safflower – each contains 120 calories per tablespoon. Saute vegetables in one-quarter cup and you’re adding 480 unnecessary calories.

Reasonable portion: Two teaspoons for small batches of vegetables and one to two tablespoons for family-sized portions of meat (about one to one and a half pounds)

7. Cooked Pasta

Whether you’re a whole grain or legume-based pasta fan, the calories in pasta can add up quickly. One cup of whole-wheat spaghetti contains 174 calories, 36 grams of carbs, six grams of fiber, seven grams of protein and a slew of B-vitamins, selenium and zinc. However, most people eat four to five times this amount, piling on between 700 to 870 calories in a flash.

8. Juice

The latest dietary guidelines state that 100-percent fruit juice can count as a fruit and be part of a healthy eating plan. One cup of 100-percent orange juice, for example, contains 112 calories, 26 grams of carbs and 21 grams of sugar, plus is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of folate, vitamin A and potassium. However, guzzle a few cups at breakfast and you can be downing 400 to 500 unwanted calories, including lots of sugar.

Reasonable portion: Six fluid ounces

1 Comment
  • Tommy
    Posted at 15:51h, 27 January Reply

    Good post, I think this is a topic that isn’t covered as much as it should be. Along the lines of the juice, I see issues with smoothies. It’s easy to think that getting as many vegetables, fruits, and others all at once is a good idea, but it can be overkill.

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