Is it better to use a food scale or measuring Cups when measuring my food to help me lose weight?

ask our dietitian your question todayfood scale versus measuring cups


I am trying to figure out the best way to measure my food. Should I be using a scale or measuring cups? When I use the cups, to measure a cup of brown rice cooked, and then measure on the scale, it does not register as a cup. So I am not sure what things should be measured on the scale, and what should be measured using the cups. –James M.



James, you’ve discovered the inconsistency between weight and volume! A cup of brown rice may be dry or super-saturated, so the weight will vary tremendously based on cooking/preparation. Scales shouldn’t be used to measure volume, only weight.

If you’re assessing grams or ounces the scale is the correct tool. This is best for fish fillets, cuts of meats, cheeses, solid produce (e.g. whole apple), avocado, dry pasta, baked goods, chocolate and fried food.  Also good for whatever doesn’t fit in a measuring cup – like asparagus spears.

As you’d expect for Cups, measuring cups are the right tools. Dry staples (e.g. rice, beans, popcorn kernels), small items (e.g. soybeans, dried fruit, peas, nuts/seeds), dairy desserts, and herbs & spices are measured best with these. Measuring spoons are appropriate for small volumes. The equivalents for small volumes are 3 teaspoons per tablespoon, and 4 tablespoons per ¼ Cup. Measuring spoons also work for liquids like oils and creams.

And a cup for liquid measure is slightly different than one for dry food! The equivalent for fluid ounces is 2 fluid oz. per ¼ Cup, so there are 8 fluid oz. in a liquid Cup. Use a liquid measure for beverages, sauces, soups and larger volumes of oils and creams.

My advice is that whichever method you use to portion out your food, learn what that looks like in your bowl or cup, and on your plate. Once you’ve measured an item a few times you should get to know how that appears visually. Try to always use the same dinnerware to eat that item so you don’t have to measure and can spend more time enjoying your food!

– Debbie J., MS, RD

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Debbie James is a registered dietitian. Any views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or recommendations of Fitness International, LLC.

Posted on June 2, 2014, in Ask Our Dietitian, Health, Helpful, Nutrition, Weight Loss and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I use a scale. It took me 5 years to finally arrive at the conclusion that I hate using volume and the imperial system. I prefer weight and the metric system. I almost started punching a wall when a recipe asked me to add 2 cups of lettuce. Luckily, I found out that 2 cups of lettuce is 85 grams. Now, figuring out how much lettuce I need is a breeze.

    I suggest using a scale and to keep notes on foods you’ve figured out the weight nutrition for.

  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Less is better, but when it comes to lettuce, have all you like. I’ve heard eating raw plain celery is actually a minus, takes your body more energy to digest than your body gets back.

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