Portion Distortion – Down Size!

control portion sizeMost people are aware that portion sizes have dramatically increased over the past few decades but most of us do not understand the effect the increase in portion sizes has on our bodies. In order to fully understand what is happening related to portion sizes, we first have to understand the difference between portion and serving sizes. 

According to the National Institute of Health and the American Heart Associationportion sizes and serving sizes do not always match up and because of this fact, many Americans remain uncertain as to the difference between the two terms. 

Portion Size = how much food you choose to eat at one given time. Can be large or small.

Serving Size = measured amount. Listed on a product’s Nutrition Facts panel. (Example: 1 slice of bread, 8 fluid ounces, 1 cup)

It is important to check the Nutrition Facts of products because serving sizes are not universal and differ between products. Many foods that come in single portions contain multiple servings, such as soups, frozen meals, soft drinks and juices. If you’re unsure how to interpret the labels, your Registered Dietitian would be happy to help you learn. 

Growing Portion Sizes Lead to Growing Waistlines

An increase in portion sizes over the past few decades have equated to an increase in 50-100 calories per serving; add 100 calories to each day and that can lead to 10 pounds per year! 

Americans have seen their waistlines growing, this is in part because of the increased frequency of dining out in restaurants. Restaurant portion sizes are 2-3 times the standard serving size recommendation.  Next time you order a plate of spaghetti, think that 1/3 of the plate would be the recommended serving size. According to a recent study from the Journal of Public Health Nutrition, 96% of restaurant meals exceed the USDA recommendations for sodium, fat and total calories. 

The increase in portion sizes and in turn the increase in caloric intake, makes it even more critical for Americans to be aware of what a serving size actually looks like. Many individuals tend to consume a larger portion when one is available. Brian Wansink, PhD and author of Mindless Eating, states that when people were given larger buckets of popcorn they ate 44% more calories than those given smaller buckets, even when they thought the popcorn didn’t taste good. An overloaded plate can very well lead to an overloaded stomach and weight gain. 

Tips to Control Portion Size:

Normal-sized portions in a super-sized world can be difficult so here are some tips for making it easier! 

  1. Use a lunch or salad plate for dinner
  2. Plate food and serve food from the stove top, don’t keep serving dishes on the table
  3. Split an entree or put half in a takeout container when dining out
  4. Don’t eat from the box or package! Put small amount into a bowl to eat from
  5. Use measuring cups and spoons at home to become familiar with serving sizes
  6. Click here for more tips on portion control.


Image courtesy of Alpha on Flickr