Use visual references to help size up components of a meal, dietician Lisa Westfall says

Portion control is important when it comes to losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight. Many Americans underestimate the amount of food and calories they eat in a day. Just because it's on your plate doesn't mean you have to eat it.

Examples of appropriate serving sizes for a sensible meal are as follows:

For starches, 1 slice of bread, 1/2cup cooked rice or pasta or 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes
1/2 cup cooked veggies
1 cup of milk
3 to 4 ounces of meat

Having an object to reference a serving size can be helpful. A vegetable or fruit serving is the size of your fist. A serving of pasta is the size of an ice cream scoop. A piece of meat can be compared to a deck of playing cards. An apple should be no bigger than the size of a baseball. A computer mouse is a good visual for a potato. A bagel should be around the size of a hockey puck. As we all know, the bagels from some restaurants are much bigger than that. Most restaurants provide servings that are two to four times the amount that we should eat.

Nutrition labels are on food products for a reason. It is important to look at the serving size and amount of servings in the product. This will help you in eye-balling the proper amount to eat. When preparing foods at home, try using measuring cups to portion your vegetables, pasta, fruit and other items. Then put them onto your plate so you can see how much each item covers your dish. This will help you learn how to judge what a serving size is without having to use a measuring cup.

Use smaller dishes at home, store leftovers in portion-controlled containers, try to avoid eating out of a bag. You can pre-portion baggies with chips, pretzels and other snacks.

Portion size is important when it comes to controlling calorie intake and can help promote weight loss or maintain a healthy weight. It is also helpful for when you eat out. Most restaurants double or triple what a serving size should be. By being informed, you will be able to judge how much you should eat to ensure you are not over-indulging. At the same time, don't let all of this bog you down. Eating should still be enjoyable, just keep your eyes open to what is on your plate.

Lisa Westfall is a registered dietician at Dublin Methodist Hospital.