Healthy Portion Sizes

Did you know that in the 1980s, a typical bagel had 140 calories and a 3-inch diameter? Today, a bagel averages 6 inches and is a whopping 350 calories! With 64-ounce fountain drinks, jumbo-size snacks, massive restaurant entrees and the ability to “up-size” fast food for pennies more, it is easy to get confused about proper portion size.

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What is a Portion?

A portion is the amount of a specific food an individual eats for a meal or snack. Many factors affect food portions, such as age, gender, activity level, appetite, and where or when the food is obtained and eaten.


What is the Difference Between Portions and Servings?

A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat. There is no standard or correct portion size. A serving is a standard amount (issued by the USDA) used to give advice about how much to eat and to identify how many calories and nutrients are in a particular food. This is the information located on the nutritional label of a food product (serving size).

For example:

You eat a sandwich with two slices of bread.

Ÿ The nutrition label on the bread states that the serving size is one slice.

Ÿ Your portion is two slices, which equals two servings.


Healthy Portion Sizes

For a general idea of the amount of food you should be consuming, use the following recommendations:

Ÿ A serving of meat is about 2 or 3 ounces—about the size of the palm of your hand.

Ÿ One serving of grains is equal to one slice of bread, one ounce of cereal, or half a cup of pasta or rice.

Ÿ A serving of fruit or vegetables is equal to one piece of fresh fruit or vegetable, half a cup of chopped, or ¾ cup of either juice. In general, it’s not as necessary to be vigilant about vegetable and fruit intake, as any amount is healthy—just be aware of the sugar content in fruit.

Ÿ The USDA recommends you make at least half your plate fruits and vegetables.


Break Down Your Meal

It might be easier to figure out how much you are consuming if consider what you are about to eat. For example, here is how you would break down a spaghetti dinner (Ashley’s side note: I would skip the pasta all-together and substitute it with zucchini and squash noodles, but this gives you an idea):


Spaghetti Noodles –

Your portion: 2 cups

Serving size: ½ cup

Number of pasta servings: 4


Tomato Sauce –

Your portion: 1 cup

Serving size: ½ cup

Number of sauce servings: 2


Meatballs –

Your portion: 6 ounces

Serving size: 2 ounces

Number of meatball servings: 3


Don’t forget to calculate any appetizers, drinks or side dishes you consume with your meal as well. For example:


Garlic Bread –

Your portion: 2 slices

Serving size: 1 slice

Number of bread servings: 2


Soft Drink –

Your portion: 24 ounces

Serving size: 12 ounces

Number of beverage servings: 2


It’s easy to see how effortless it can be to consume far more than you intend to. A great way to get a handle on your portion sizes is to keep a food journal (try the My Fitness Pal app).

Aim to consume about 2.5-3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. Your recommended protein intake will depend on a number of factors such as age and activity level. check out this handy protein calculator to determine your recommended consumption.


Do you have any additional tips for effectively managing your portion sizes?


Source: Live Well, Work Well


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