Contest tries to find objects that accurately represent food portions
If you are thinking about losing a few pounds this year and want to increase your chances of being successful, we want to offer you the chance to win some money and increase your odds of losing weight at the same time.
Anyone who has successfully lost weight knows the importance of exercise and eating good foods in the right amounts and proportions. But estimating the amounts of foods can be challenging. Can you visually estimate the volume of a measuring cup or other common measures of food amounts?
Various objects such as tennis balls and baseballs have been used to help people estimate food portions. This doesn't always work well. For example, some claim that a golf ball is equivalent to about two level tablespoons or one ounce. However, the volume of a golf ball is closer to 2.7 level tablespoons.
Question: Can an error as small as seven-tenths of a tablespoon significantly affect the amount of calories in a portion?
Answer: It depends on the particular food. This seemingly small volume difference can equal a significant calorie difference for some foods. The table shows the variation that can occur.
Typical objects used to describe food portions are related to games or sports. Examples include poker chips, dice, dominoes, a deck of cards, golf balls, tennis balls, baseballs, softballs or hockey pucks.
Since people are not universally familiar with these objects, we are looking for better examples to help estimate food volumes and portions more accurately.
We invite readers to send us examples of common objects (not sports- or game-related) that are approximately equal to the following amounts:
1. 1 teaspoon
2. 1 tablespoon
3. 1 cup (8 fluid ounces)
4. 3 ounces of meat, poultry or fish
Entries should suggest objects that are widely used and recognized. Entries may involve objects that are specific to particular ethnic groups, but please indicate the group of people being targeted. Avoid objects that can come in many different sizes. For example, a computer mouse is not a good object to use because they come in many sizes. Similarly, a medium apple is not a good suggestion because we all have different images of what constitutes "medium."
The entrant with the best examples for all four measurements will win $100. Runners-up -- those with the best object example for any one of the four measures -- will win $25. All entries will be judged by a panel of experts in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences at the University of Hawaii. Ties will be decided by random selection.
To participate, e-mail your list of suggestions to email@example.com or mail them to Dobbs & Titchenal, HNFAS/UH, 1955 East-West Road, Honolulu 96822. All entries must be received by midnight Jan. 17.
Include your name, address and phone number (all will remain private).
Individuals may submit up to three separate entries, and each entry may include up to three suggestions for each of the four measurements. Employees of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin are ineligible. Any entry -- win or lose -- may be published without compensation to the writer. Judges' decisions are final.
Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S. and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. are
nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal
Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, UH-Manoa.
Dr. Dobbs also works with the University Health Services and prepares
the nutritional analyses marked with an asterisk in this section.