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Posted on June 7, 2012 by Christine Crosby in Portion Size, Serving Size

Be Wise About The Portion Size and Serving Size of Food

It’s hard to miss the fact that portion sizes have gotten much larger in the last few years. You can also see this in the grocery and convenience store and vending machines A bagel has become a BAGEL, 3 times it’s size of twenty years ago and an “individual” bag of chips can easily feed more than one. Research has consistently shown that people unintentionally consume more calories when faced with larger portions. Here are some tips to help you avoid some common portion-size pitfalls.

A “portion” is how much food you and your grandchildren choose to eat or serve at one sitting no matter in a restaurant, from a package or in your own kitchen. A “serving” size is the amount of food listed on a product’s “Nutrition Facts” label. Sometimes, the portion size and serving size match; sometimes they don’t. Keep in mind that the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label is not a recommended amount of food to eat. It is a quick way of telling you the calories and nutrients in a certain amount of food. Also, it is a great and fast way to lose or maintain weight.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Nutrition Facts information is printed on most packaged foods. It tells you how many calories and how much fat, carbohydrate, sodium, and other nutrients are in one “serving” of that food. Most packaged foods contain more than a single serving. The serving sizes that appear on food labels are based on FDA-established lists of foods.

The portion size that you are used to eating may be equal to two or three standard servings. Take a look at the Nutrition Facts for a box of macaroni and cheese. The serving size is 1 cup, but the package actually contains 2 cups of this food product. If you eat the entire package, you are eating two servings of macaroni and cheese. This doubles the calories, fat, and other nutrients in a standard serving!

Nutrition Facts

To see how many servings a package has, check the “servings per container” listed on its Nutrition Facts label. You may be surprised to find that small containers often have more than one serving inside. When cooking for yourself, use measuring cups and spoons.  To measure your usual food portions, compare them to standard serving sizes from the Nutrition Facts label of food products for a week. Put the suggested serving size that appears on the label on your plate before you start eating. This will help you see what one standard serving of a food looks like compared to how much you normally eat.

Portion Tips:

Eat Your Fast Food on a Plate

When you order fast food, picture the food on a plate. Even better, take it home and put it on a plate. You may be surprised at how full the plate looks, so next time try a smaller size.

Drinks Count Too!

Instead of an alcoholic beverage, try a diet or club soda with fresh lemon or lime. You will consume fewer calories.

Order Smaller Portions of Fast Food and Take-Out

When dining out, instead of an entrée, order a light appetizer or order 2 and share with a friend It may also help to compare serving sizes to everyday objects. For example, 1/4 cup of raisins is about the size of a large egg. Three ounces of meat or poultry is about the size of a deck of cards or a small chicken breast.

 Other Links and Info:

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – Portion Distortion Quiz

Shows portion sizes of some common foods have changed over the years.


USDA –   The federal government’s nutrition education and guidance Web site. It was developed to promote healthy eating and to encourage consumers to know how much they are eating and how quantity today will have a great impact on+ tomorrow’s health.


Cornell University– Beating Mindless Eating


Janice Wade-Miller is a nutrition educator in Tallahassee, Florida. She has earned her bachelors and masters degrees in Food and Nutrition from Florida State University. In her role as a health educator, she has assisted all age groups, from young children to senior citizens in learning about good nutrition, health and food safety. Her email address is jmiller@iamforkids.org.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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