Do women or men know more about nutrition?

Do women or men know more about nutrition?

It’s the eternal question: Who knows more – men or women?

New research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that men are four times less likely than women to know appropriate daily calorie intake for their age and weight.

Heather Klug, a registered dietitian with the Karen Yontz Women’s Cardiac Awareness Center at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wis., says that her professional experience mirrors the results of the study.

“Culturally, women are encouraged to be smaller or weigh less,” says Klug. “Men are encouraged to be bigger, and it’s more acceptable for them to weigh more.”

Klug says that it’s fairly common for clients to be clueless about calories.

For those who want to determine an appropriate calorie level, she recommends: “Get your resting metabolic rate measured through a dietitian (best because it’s the most accurate).” Then you can take a health risk assessment online to get more information about healthy weight goals.

People can lose track of appropriate calorie levels partly because calorie needs drop by about 50 to 75 calories per decade of age, even if a person maintains similar activity levels. Another potential hurdle is that portion sizes have grown over the years.

Whether or not a client has accurate expectations about calorie counts, Klug finds that teaching healthy portion sizes often helps patients more than teaching about how to track and count calories.

“I use a handout that lists calorie levels and how much food to eat from each food group each day,” Klug says. “Then I review those portion sizes and we discuss how those portions are different than how they currently eat.”

Klug uses comparisons to common objects to help clients judge healthy portion sizes. She finds that visual suggestions stick with clients longer and are easier for people to manage.

Object Portion size
Baseball 1 cup
Tennis ball ½ cup
Large egg ¼ cup
Deck of cards 3 ounces of cooked meat, poultry or dense fish
Checkbook 3 ounces of white fish
Large marshmallow

or ping pong ball

2 tablespoons
2 6-sided dice 2 teaspoons


Another teaching method that Klug uses is called “Hand Jive” and was originally developed by Dr. Kazzim Mawji in Zimbabwe. Mawji needed a tool that would work across language and literacy barriers to educate people living with diabetes. He instructed his patients to use the size of their hands to judge healthy portion sizes.

Hand Jive measurements of food portions:

Part of hand Portion size
Closed fist 1 cup
Cupped handful ½ cup
Area of palm 3 ounces cooked meat, poultry or dense fish
Flat hand (from wrist

to tip of middle finger)

3 ounces white fish
Thumb 1-2 tablespoons
Tip of thumb 1 teaspoon


What does this mean when you’re filling your plate? Plan to take a protein portion that’s the size of your palm, a starch portion the size of one fist and then fill the rest of the plate with non-starchy vegetables. When cooking with fat or adding fat to prepared food, aim for a thumb or less. For a snack, choose a fruit serving that is between the size of a tennis ball and a baseball.

Even though calorie counts can be accessed on the internet, doing so takes more time and brain power than simply comparing your portions to your hands or other common objects. In our busy modern world, simple methods may provide enough accuracy to work better than complex methods that are more precise.

Want to learn more about your healthy weight range? Take a free, quick online assessment by clicking here.

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  1. Yes, men are stupid and women are smart. We know. Thanks for the reminder. It would be refreshing to have articles with a more interesting perspective.

  2. Indeed. I am so dumb it is a wonder I can get myself dressed in the morning, let alone tell a donut from an apple.

  3. I think some of the commenters on this article are missing the point. The majority of this article is describing everyday ways to practice portion control. The only part of the article that described the difference between men and women is that “women are encouraged to be smaller or weigh less” than men in our society. I don’t see anywhere in this article where it says women are smart and men are dumb. Very helpful article on portion control!

  4. Well, if you’re gonna eat, then eat. Just don’t eat so damn much that you turn into a big fat slob, that’s all! It doesn’t look good on anyone! It’s not healthy! Be smart in all of your food choices, especially the amounts that you’re shoveling into your face! Learn! Stay healthy! ?

About the Author

Jo Linsley
Jo Linsley

Jo Linsley, a health enews contributor, is a digital content strategist at Advocate Aurora Health. With decades of experience in writing and editing, she continues to aspire to concise and inspiring writing. She also enjoys knitting and singing as creative outlets and for their meditative qualities.