How To Control Portion Sizes


Take Control of your Eating

How To Control Portion Sizes – Portion Control Secrets


It is not always what you eat, but how much you eat – It is the size of your servings that really counts!

Most of us tend to underestimate the amount of food we eat and tend to overestimate the recommended portion sizes for many foods.  Almost everyone underestimates the amount of calories they consume, and people who weigh more do so to a greater degree.


Portion:  A portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time (breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack), whether in a restaurant, from a package, or in your own kitchen. Portions can be bigger or smaller than the recommended food servings.  There is no standard portion size and no single right or wrong portion size.

Serving:  A serving size is the amount of food listed (and recommended) on a product’s Nutrition Facts (panel of packaged food) or the amount of food recommended in the Food Guide Pyramid and the Dietary Guidelines* for Americans.  Sometimes, the portion size and serving size match; sometimes they do not.  A serving is a standard amount used to help give advice about how much to eat, or to identify how many calories and nutrients are in a food.

*The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Nutrition Facts tells you how many calories and how much fat, carbohydrate, sodium, and other nutrients are available in one serving of food.  Most packaged foods contain more than a single serving.

Check out how to read food labelsFood Labels 101.

In this world of super-sizing everything, it is hard to avoid the huge portions of food tempting us at all-you-can-eat buffets, extra-large hamburgers, jumbo lattes in coffee chains, and the extra-large “single servings” of snack foods such as chips and candy bars.  Even bagels have become super-sized, which gives what should be a reasonably healthful breakfast item a high calorie count.  More people now eat away from home, giving them less control over the amount of food on their plates.  Check out How To Eat Out On A Diet or How To Survive Without Blowing Your Diet!



How To Control Portion Sizes:

Eating smaller portions of food is one of the easiest ways to cut back on calories, but it can also be one of the most challenging, with the current trend of super-sizing.  How do you know a reasonable portion of food when you see it?  Visualize the objects mentioned below when eating out, planning a meal, or grabbing a snack.

Use you hand as a guide – Generally, a serving size is what can fit into the palm of an individual’s hand.


Food Pyramid Guide:

Food Pyramid


How many servings do you need each day to maintain your weight?

Information from Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion
United States Department of Agriculture


What counts as a serving?Children (ages 2 to 6), women, some older adult
(1,600 calories)
Older children, teen girls, active women, most men (2,200 calories)Teen boys and active men
(2,800 calories)
Grains Group (Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta) especially whole grain

1 slice of bread

About 1 cup (1 ounce) of ready-to-eat cereal

1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta

6 whole wheat crackers
6 Servings9 Servings11 servings
Vegetable Group

1 cup of raw leafy vegetables

1/2 cup of other vegetables (corn, peas, sweet potatoes), cooked or raw

3/4 cup of vegetable juice

1 small (3 ounce) baked potato
3 Servings4 Servings5 Servings
Fruit Group

1 medium apple, banana, orange, pear

1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit

3/4 cup of fruit juice

1 cup mixed berries, cherries, or cubed cantaloupe
2 Servings3 Servings4 Servings
Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group - preferably fat free or low fat

1 cup of milk** or yogurt

2 ounces of natural cheese (such as Cheddar)

2 ounces of processed cheese (such as American)
2 or 3* servings2 or 3* servings2 or 3* servings
Meat and Beans Group (Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts) preferably lean or low fat

2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
These count as 1 ounce of meat:

1/2 cup of cooked dry beans (lima, kidney, black. split beans, lentils) or tofu

2 1/2 ounces soy burger

1 egg

2 tablespoons of peanut butter

1/3 cup of nuts
2 servings, for a total of 5 ounces2 servings, for a total of 6 ounces2 servings, for a total of 7 ounces

*  Older children and teens ages 9 to 18 years and adults over age 50 need 3 servings daily, others need 2 servings daily.

**  This includes lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk products.  Soy-based beverages with added calcium are an option for those who prefer a non-dairy source of calcium.



How many servings do you need to lose weight?

To reduce your calories and lose weight, reduce the size of the recommended daily portion servings.

Any diet that does not rely on foods from the above Food Pyramid is nutritionally unbalanced. The Dietary Guidelines describe a healthy diet as one that:

Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products;

Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and

Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.

Pay less attention to specific caloric intake than to portion size and nutritional completeness.

Each of these food groups provide some, but not all, of the nutrients you need.  No one food group is more important than another- for good health you need them all.  Go easy on fats, oils, and sweets, the foods higher in fat, sugar and calories.



To reduce your calories and lose weight, reduce the size of your portions!

How much do you eat?

A great example of our overeating:  Pour out your usual portion of pasta and measure it!  Next, compare it to the recommended portion size on the package label.  Chances are, you are eating two, three, four or more times the amount on the label.  The portion size that you are used to eating may be equal to two or three standard servings!  To see how many servings a package has, check the “servings per container” listed on its Nutrition Facts.

Tip:  Watch the amount of spaghetti or pasta that you are eating.  Count your noodles!  Yes, slow down and enjoy your pasta while mentally counting the noodles.  A single serving of noodles is equivalent to about 32 full strands of spaghetti and/or one carbohydrate exchange for diabetics.

Practice restraint in restaurants as well.  An appetizer makes a great meal and is plenty of food for one sitting.

Please read How To Eat Out On A Diet or How To Survive Without Blowing Your Diet!


Spaghetti Dinner Example:

Information from Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, United States Department of Agriculture

Suppose you had dinner at an Italian restaurant last night.  You ordered spaghetti with meatballs.  While you were waiting for your order, you ate 2 slices of garlic bread.  How can you tell if this dinner is too much food for you?  You need to estimate how much you ate, and then compare that to Food Guide Pyramid recommendations.

Think about your plateful of spaghetti and meatballs.  Estimate the amounts of spaghetti, sauce, and meat.  You may decide, for example, that the spaghetti portion was about 2 cups, the tomato sauce looked like about 1 cup, and the meatballs were about 6 ounces.  With the 2 slices of garlic bread, you now have an idea about how much you ate for dinner.  According to the Pyramid, your portions equal the following number of servings:

FoodYour PortionOne Pyramid Serving# of Pyramid Servings You Ate
Spaghetti 2 Cups1/2 Cup4
Garlic Bread2 Slices1 Slice2
Tomato Sauce1 Cup1/2 Cup2
Meatballs6 Ounces2-3 Ounces2-3


To reduce your calories and lose weight, reduce the size of your portions.


Check out the following web pages to help you with your diet:

Diet Recipes
My many diet recipes that I have collected. The recipe show fat grams, fiber grams, and calorie.

Dieting Hints & Tips

Determine Your Body Mass Index (BMI)

Coffee Drink Calories

Food Labels 101 – Learn how to read and understand Food Labels.

Food Nutritional Value Chart – Shows fat grams, fiber grams, and calorie.

How To Eat Out On A Diet or How To Survive Without Blowing Your Diet!

Identify A Calorie Goal

Juicing For Weight Loss

Making Sense of Portion Sizes – Portion Control Secrets

Menopause and Weight Gain

Sugar: The Natural Sweetener -Only 15 Calories Per Teaspoon!

What About Exercise? Calories Burned Per Minute of Exercise By Weight



Cooking Articles    Healthy Lifestyle   

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