August’s Nutrition Hot Topic: Weighing In On Food Scales

First off, allow me to apologize for the lack of posts. This month has been a crazy one. Wrapping up my receptionist gig, moving back in with my parents, getting sick, and preparing to move to Boston are all things taking place during the turbulent month of August.

Now then, if I may say so myself, you are in good hands with me. I think I have been doing an all right job at this whole blogging thing, but on August fifth my suspicions were confirmed. The opening page on MSN.com was…

Booya. In the words of SportCenter’s Kenny Mayne, “It must be a homer Simpson because the pitcher just went D’oh!”

I just want to say to my few, but dedicated readers, you are well informed…at least for now. The gluten conundrum was discussed right here on this very blog back on Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo people! Olay indeed. Let’s not even address the decline in the stock market. That man’s face says more than any of my Neanderthal rambling could ever convey. As for JWoww, Mr. Bean, and polar bear violence – more on that later.

While August gets on with itself, I am currently in the midst of my first week of summer vacation.  It is a lot of lounging and Food Network watching. I hope it’s not just me, but watching the Food Network actually makes me hungry. Either that or it makes me think I am hungry. I think it’s more of the later if you want to know the truth. Much like Cheech and Chong, watching television while (over) eating are two things that go very well together. So as a reminder to all of us that portion control is important, it’s time to discuss food scales.

Most of us are relatively familiar with volume measurement – maybe not visually, but rather conceptually. Weight is more of a black box area. During college I decided to purchase a food scale more out of curiosity than necessity. What does two ounces of pasta really look like? What about four ounces of chicken? Generally speaking, there are two kinds of people out there. People either over- or underestimate what a serving size actually is.

I’ve mentioned it here before perfection is overrated.  For a while I obsessively measured every gosh-blessed thing I ate. Looking back, it was annoying. However, I did gain one skill from that brief period of lunacy. I am now much more comfortable measuring out foods and ball parking their quantities.

Health professionals try to come up with all kinds of tricks to help the average Joe deduce serving sizes.
  • Three ounces of meat = size of a deck of cards
  • 1 medium apple or orange = size of a tennis ball
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit = one small handful
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter = size of a golf ball
What the what?! These guess-timations are not applicable for someone like me. I instantly start to perspire as I work to recall what a tennis ball even looks like. Here is where the food scale comes in. I never weighed my fruit or peanut butter, but dry pasta, natural cheese (goat or feta) and meat were all fair game. After so many times of weighing a given piece of food, you’ll eventually come to realize you already know about how much is there. In the beginning, however, you may not be so confident or knowledgeable.

Food scales can be found just about anywhere these days. Your local grocery store, Target, Wal-Mart, and most kitchen supply stores such as William Sonoma carry food scales. They start around  $4 and go up for there. The one I own was around $20 at the time of purchase. I’d go for a digital model if you can. The four-dollar variety is more of a manual scale. It involves zeroing the scale out and rotating the dial for each use. That’s just too much physical labor for me. The digital models bring two buttons and that’s it: On/Off and Tare/Mode. The answer is instantly given, no squinting-at-eye-level-to-read-the-dial required.

Most scales can read in ounces, grams or pounds and the average digital scale reads up to 11 pounds. Handy when you bring your newborn home from the hospital and want to track its growth. That right there just gave me away – its growth. They’re not human. Oh brother. Reason number 743 why I should not look to conceive in the next five years.

Portion control, that’s the whole reason to dive into the world of food scales. Should you start measuring everything you eat?  No. Is it good to learn and become more familiar with portion sizes? Absolutely. Over-sized portions are an all-too-common culprit for weight gain.

Being more cognizant of the foods we put into our mouths is an important part of a healthy mind and body. It is not always fun, but it does help one become more aware of where their calories are coming from. Mindless eating is the devil’s playground when it comes to your waistline. In 2004, a study done by Cornell University’s Department of Nutrition and Psychology was published in the Journal of Nutrition. The study found that the more food young adults were served, the more they overrate. The bottom line of weight gain is this: if you eat more calories than your body needs in a given day, you gain weight.  It’s just that cruel.

When people learn I am a nutrition major, the conversations take either one of two directions. Option A: they tell me about someone they know in the field. Option B (my favorite): they want to discuss the weight loss diet they are currently trying to follow. More times than not, B trumps A. So this means one thing to me – most of us want to lose some amount of weight. I will say this though – count your calories, measure out your food, eat your fruits and vegetables, work out – it is important to always have realistic expectations of yourself.  More on tips for Mindful Eating to come…

In the meantime, I encourage you to venture into the painfully accurate world of food scales. Some days you’ll love it; other days you’ll hate it. Mark my words. But food is fuel and knowledge is power and if I could think of one more cliché here, I’d be really happy. None the less, as a true realist I’ll give you one final alternative use for your beloved food scale should you purchase one, hate it, and not be able to refund your precious dinero. My mother also doubles hers as a scale for mail. Never again will the question, does it need more than one stamp, trip you up.

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