Portions vs. Serving Size: What Do They Mean?
Don’t worry – most people don’t know the difference between a portion and a serving.
So here’s the skinny on both:
- A portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time – or that you choose to feed your child. It’s what is on your plate based on what you wanted to eat (and it may be 2, 3 or even 4 servings!).
- A serving is a specific recommended amount of food.
The ChooseMyplate.gov website provides valuable information about serving sizes.
Most people don’t consider the serving size when they decide on a portion to eat. That leads to weight gain and over-eating which also leads to unhealthy lifestyles.
People often gain weight because their “portions” contain multiple “servings” of a particular food or food group. One way to gain a better understanding of servings is to equate them to something you know.
For example, these objects demonstrate serving sizes:
- 1/2 cup cooked rice is about the size of a baseball
- A pancake is the size of a CD
- A serving of cheese is the size of a pair of dice or the size of your whole thumb
- 1 cup of cereal is the size of your fist
- 1 baked potato is the size of a computer mouse
- 1 medium fruit is the size of a baseball
The USDA recommends portion sizes based on years of research and analysis.
- one slice of whole-grain bread
- 1/2 cup of cooked rice
- 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes
- 3-4 small crackers
- 2 medium sized cookies
- 1/2 cup cooked vegetables
- 1 small chicken breast
- 1/4 pound hamburger patty
Now compare the portions you normally serve to the actual recommended serving sizes to see where you are on the scale. Most people find that they have 2-3 servings of mashed potatoes in a portion, or 2 servings of chicken on their plate when they eat.
Watch servings when deciding on portions and use ChooseMyPlate.gov as a guide. Build a healthy plate with 3/4 vegetables, fruits, and grains. Leave 1/4 for protein and include some dairy.
Then enjoy a nutritious meal that doesn’t leave you over-stuffed!