The answer to “How much should I eat?” changes from person to person. But these easy tips can help you figure out how much you should have on your plate.
1. Set your calorie goals
- Here’s a nifty rule of thumb for how many calories you need in a day: If you’re trying for modest weight loss, add a zero to your weight to get a ballpark calorie target.
- For instance, if you weigh 160 pounds, your target for modest weight loss would be 1,600 calories a day.
2. Start a food diary
- It’s worth keeping a food diary for a few days to see how many calories you’re really eating. The number may well be more than you think.
- Use the nutrition labels on packaged foods to get the calories per serving.
- Be careful: some packages contain two servings, so you’ll have to double that number if you eat the whole thing.
3. Train your eyes
- One way to get a handle on portion sizes is to train your eye to identify what a reasonable serving looks like.
- Serving sizes are quite small, so don’t feel bad if your portion is twice as large.
4. Watch your grain intake
- A serving of pasta or rice is 125 grams (1/2 cup), but most people eat a cup. That counts as two servings.
- A single dense bagel can equal an entire day’s worth of grain servings.
- Most of us need no more than six servings of grains a day — preferably lower medium-glycemic-load grains.
- If you’re eating three or four servings at a sitting, that’s too much.
5. Don’t overload on meat
- A serving of meat or chicken is about 85 grams (three ounces).
- Most people can eat two servings — the size of two decks of cards — if they eat meat once a day.
- If you’re used to two meat meals in a day, try to limit the size of your overall daily consumption to the “two decks of cards.”
- A handy visual guide is to have meat take up no more than one-quarter the size of your dinner plate.
How much you should eat depends on how much you currently weigh, and how active you are. Figuring out portion sizes should start with your current weight. From there, learn about serving sizes and try to eat balanced, healthy meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables.