Should I Pay Attention to Dry or Cooked Weights of Food?

Question: I just weighed 2 ounces of dried spaghetti. After cooking, it weighed 8 ounces. I suppose pasta is filled with water, which makes it weigh more. I’m totally confused as to what I should eat or rather how much to eat while dieting.  -Denise

Answer: Good observation! This phenomenon of foods weighing more after cooking than before occurs for a wide variety of foods, including pasta, rice, couscous, quinoa, lentils and dried beans. And you’re right—they weigh more after cooking because they have absorbed the water, broth or other liquid they were cooked in.

Your frustration in trying to monitor your portions is certainly understandable. It does not always help when food labels give nutrition information for dried portions (such as on a pasta box, where nutrition facts are often given for a 2 oz. dry serving) rather than for cooked portions. To make things a little easier, it may help to stick to either measuring dry or cooked weights—rather than measuring both. It may also help to focus more on volume servings sizes (i.e., 1 cup, 2 Tbsp) of pastas and grains, because these can be better estimated visually—useful when dining out and your kitchen scale isn’t handy!  For example, you can measure one serving of pasta as 1 cup, 2 oz.-weight dry, or equivalent to half the size of your fist or one cupped palm. The same measurements apply for rice. To learn more about serving sizes (both in dry weight and in cooked volumes) of various foods, visit the MyPlate website. And to learn more short-cut tips for estimating portion sizes (i.e., 1 oz. of cheese = the size of a pair of dice), check out the Cleveland Clinic’s cheat sheet.