Any good diet program will tell you that portion control is one of the most important components of rehabbing your eating and losing weight, since our perceptions of appropriate portions are distorted by what’s served up by the restaurant and food industries and our own psychological filters. To that end, people who are striving to adopt healthier eating habits have at their disposal many tools to make plain how much they are actually eating.
Most people have used a measuring cup or spoon for a recipe, which I also rely on for portion control, but you may not be familiar with the food scale. It’s basically a small, counter-size scale that’s used to weigh small quantities of food–usually fewer than 10 or 15 pounds. You can find it in the kitchen appliances section of stores like Walmart and Target. This device is easily the most important tool I have for eating appropriately.
The reason why I am so enamored with my food scale is what I mentioned earlier, that I did not start out my weight loss journey being a good judge of portion sizes, for many reasons. Rather than having to guess about how much I’m eating and slow down or reverse my weight loss, I don’t take portions to chance. I go straight to the scale.
I started out on Weight Watchers with a digital scale for about 40-50 bucks, with a wide, square platform on which to put food. I usually add food to a paper plate, a small plastic bowl (not bigger than 2 cups in size), or wax paper on top of the platform. (Add the bowl, plate or paper first, before you turn on the scale.) And then I add whatever I want to eat, adjusting my portion as needed–either adding another slice of pork loin to get to 3 ounces, for example, or taking out a few potato chips if I’ve gone over the 1-ounce serving.
Currently I have a manual scale. One handy feature offered by the digital scale is what’s called “tare,” which is a button that you push to set the scale to zero. Why is this helpful? Say you’re making an egg omelet, and you want to add turkey ham and cheese. You can weigh out a 1-ounce portion of turkey ham, tare the scale, which clears out the weight of the ham, and then you can add a 1-ounce portion of reduced fat cheese to the same bowl, rather than having to do the math for the cheese, start on a separate bowl, or use some other inconvenient strategy.
The scale is especially helpful for me when it comes to things I’d normally overindulge on, like meat, cheese and snack foods, because it is far more objective than I am. Although I am getting better at gauging portion sizes objectively, I’d rather be precise by using the food scale, until I can judge appropriately on my own.
My review of the manual scale versus the digital scale: I currently have a cheap old-school scale (the one pictured, which cost about $9), and let’s just say I will be buying a digital scale again. I prefer having the digital scale readout to tell me exactly how much something weighs, as opposed to having to squint at the ounce lines on the manual scale and hope that I have tared the scale properly–with the manual scale I have, rather than pushing a button, you’re supposed to turn a dial on the scale to set the gauge to zero, while the food is still on the scale. It’s not easy to do, in my opinion. (UPDATE: I bought a new digital scale, for $29 bucks. It’s a lot simpler than the original scale I had, with just 2 buttons. But those buttons allow you to tare the scale, as well as change between metric and cutomary weights. That’s all I really need!)
As I’ve said previously, to me, the goal of being a reformed healthy eater is being able to eat within reason–eating primarily for nourishment rather than comfort, with indulgences here and there, and scaling portions back to where they really should be. I believe this is a skill that can be developed, and something that we should ultimately be able to do for ourselves. I know my food scale is helping me to get there.
Have you used a food scale before? Tell me about your experience!