I’m sure you have noticed how large the meals are that we are served when we eat out. Often the amounts we serve ourselves or our families at home are just as oversized as the restaurant portions. How can we control the calories we are eating each day to help us maintain a healthy weight?
One simple helpful tool is to recognize the difference between a “serving” and a “portion”.
A “portion” is the amount of food or beverage a person chooses to eat or drink. A “serving” is a standard amount established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. People commonly portion out more than one serving to eat or drink at a time.
For example, a serving of soda is 8 fluid ounces. Sixteen fluid-ounce bottles of soda are common, and many people choose to drink 16 fluid ounces in one sitting. Even though a 16-fluid ounce bottle is commonly viewed as one “portion,” it is actually two servings! Many cups at fast food restaurants are 32 ounces or even 44 ounces. Think how many servings you are having if you refill the cup before you leave?
A serving of meat or fish is 3 ounces – about the size of a deck of cards. But the portion that you have on your plate may be 6 – 9 ounces or more! Now, think of the calories that you are consuming if you eat the “portion” instead of a “serving.”
One 3-4 ounce hamburger has about 330 calories; a 6 – 8 ounce hamburger comes in at about 600 calories!
We know that just 100 extra calories per day could lead to a 10 pound weight gain in one year. It would take about 1 hour and 30 minutes of exercise to burn off the extra calories from the double burger!
Research has shown that if people are given food in larger serving size packages, they are likely to eat the entire package. For example, a 10.5 ounce bag of potato chips contains about 11 one ounce servings (about 13 chips). Each 1 ounce serving gives you 140 calories, 8 grams of fat and 180 mg of sodium. If you multiply those by 11, you are eating 1,540 calories, 88 grams of fat and 1,980 mg of sodium!
It might be helpful it you divided a larger package into individual serving sizes. When you first open the bag, divide the chips into 11 separate baggies and you will be less likely to mindlessly eat the whole bag while watching TV!
To help you visualize how big (or small!) a serving actually is here are some helpful hints using everyday items to determine the size of a serving.
- A 3 oz. serving of meat, fish and poultry = a deck of cards or the size of a computer mouse
- 2 Tbsp. of peanut butter = a ping pong ball
- 1 ½ oz. cheese = 4 stacked dice
- ½ cup of ice cream = ½ of a baseball
- 1 baked potato = a fist
- ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta or potato = ½ of a baseball
As you can see, a serving is much smaller than the portions we typically put on our plate! You can download a portion card at: http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/portion/servingcard7.pdf
Choosemyplate.gov has the following suggestions to help you:
Measure out foods you regularly eat (such as a bowl of cereal) once or twice, to get a sense of how big your typical portion is. Also measure out what 1/2 or 1 cup portion size looks like to help you estimate how much you eat. Don’t forget to check the serving size information on the Nutrition Facts label of packaged foods. It describes what the “standard” serving size is, and how many are in the package.
How much we eat each day is just as important as what we are eating. Be sure to eat nutrient rich foods to supply the calories as part of your daily health plan. Don’t forget to include some physical activity that you enjoy each day to balance the calories in the foods you are eating.
Written by: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Franklin County, Heart of Ohio EERA, email@example.com.
Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ross County, Ohio Valley EERA, firstname.lastname@example.org.
North Carolina School Nutrition Action Committee, http://www.eatsmartmovemorenc.com/TrendsEffectsSolutions/Texts/RightSizeYourPortions.pdf
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/portion/servingcard7.pdf