Perfect Portions and the Trouble with Guesstimates

“My eyes were bigger than my stomach!” It’s a familiar lament. Unfortunately, when our eyes grow bigger than our stomachs, our stomachs eventually catch up. Dieters are often  advised to weigh, measure, and keep track of everything they eat. It makes a lot of sense when you realize just how bad most of us are at recognizing a “normal serving” of anything. To find out just how bad we really are at guesstimating portion sizes, I asked my friends on Facebook to guess exactly how many calories were in the mixed nuts shown below:


Guesses ranged from 25 calories to 350+.

Make your own guess, then click here to see if you were right.

The nuts shown above are 160 calories. They are a single serving of unsalted, mixed nuts weighed in grams on a digital scale.

The person who was farthest off in his guess is an MD – a pediatrician. Clearly, it’s  not easy. And he would probably have been close, if these had been roasted in oil or seasoned and sugar-coated.

Now, which looks better – that scrawny handful of nekkid mixed nuts, or this:


That’s Costco’s All American Chocolate Cake, and it is sitting on a salad plate – not a full-sized dinner plate. It is, in fact, the last slice of my week-old birthday cake (and yes, I’m surprised it’s lasted this long, too!) Let’s see how close you can come to answering the following questions correctly:

Is that (a) a single serving of cake; (b) about half the size of a normal-sized serving of cake; (c) over two and a half times the size of a single serving, according to the nutrition facts? Hint: a “single serving” contains 270 calories.

Click here to learn more


Read and weep.

I’m estimating a single serving at just over 1.7 ounces. Who the heck eats 1.7 ounces of chocolate cake?

This is what a true single serving looks like, shown below on a saucer:


This has been fun and eye-opening for me. A little daunting, but starting tomorrow, I’ll share with you some less depressing portion sizes.



Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at For more information on her children's books, please visit
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6 thoughts on “Perfect Portions and the Trouble with Guesstimates”

  1. You have a lovely blog here, Holly. I’ve subscribed. (I think it’s sort of funny that we have almost opposite blogs … it IS all a matter of perspective, and my perspective is “dark.” That’s a little disingenuous though, because I actually take a pretty light view of the dark side.)

    Just so you know, I guess the nuts at 140, but I was off on the cake. Lately, I stick to angel food 🙂
    Renae recently posted…Resolutions Review: How Spark People helped me lose 10 pounds in 11 weeks without dieting.My Profile

    1. Renae! Nice to see you here. 🙂 Thank you. I like to think I have an “integrated” perspective, personally – I have no problem with the dark side at all, but I also take a light view of it. Are you familiar with Caitlin Doughty? If I could specify, in advance of death, who I wanted to be my mortician – it would be her. 🙂 I just have little patience for the dark and sinister affectations of some who like to hang out on the “dark side.” I’d kind of love to watch them encounter an actual ghost, zombie, or vampire and see them wet their pants. Is that mean of me? I have said good-bye to friends with terminal illnesses and invited them to haunt me; I’m a bit sad and disappointed that none have taken me up on it, but I hope it means they have much better things to do. I’ve promised to haunt my kids (and not in a nice way) if they argue over so much as a SPOON when it comes to divvying up their inheritance, if there is one. I’ve spoken with spiritualists I believed and charlatans who were full of stuff and nonsense (there are simply MORE of the latter, unfortunately – including one who had a racket selling holy candles for $100 a pop – buy nine, and she’d tell you the names of all your enemies. I didn’t buy, and spent the next few years looking over my shoulder, sure my name was on one of her lists.) In short, I find it all entertaining and I’m curious – and I have no idea what I believe, but I see no logic in our spiritual energy just winking out and vanishing, nor do I think it’s all a bunch of “spooky woo woo” (a medium/reader/spiritual advisor in Jackson Square and I had a good laugh over that, once – she said it’s kind of hard to believe in “spooky woo woo” when you’re learning the trade from your dad over corn flakes as a kid – and I had to give her props, because she not only worked in a PSA about getting regular mammograms and not driving with a lead foot, she said some pretty amazing things that would have to make you think twice before dismissing her as a charlatan).
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  2. Have you noticed that there are always far too many calories in what we like? I have a new trick now: whenever I want a snack, I need to have some proteins with it. It works reasonably well, apart from the occasional chocolate cravings…

    1. True! Interesting… well, I think we can retrain ourselves to LIKE the low-cal foods, if we avoid sugar, salt, and preservatives for a while. It’s as if your tastebuds have been numbed – but they come back. When iceberg lettuce has any flavor at all – SUCCESS! LOL

      Also, I think your trick is a good one. Carbs don’t hold me for long – if at all. I’ve never, ever known a “sugar high”; sugar makes me drowsy and dopey. Proteins and fats, on the other hand, make a real difference in how alert and intelligent I feel. Pretty sure I get most of my energy from anything with B vitamins and vitamin A. (Side benefit to veggies with lots of vitamin A – your skin will look marvelous!)

      Remember, too, that a LITTLE dark chocolate is GOOD for you. If not for all the health benefits they tout – it’s good for your soul and soothes the savage beast within. Maybe we should just admit that our eating chocolate can be good for OTHERS, too. 😉
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