Portions vs. Servings

Do you know the difference between a portion and a serving of food?

A “portion” is the amount of a specific food you choose to eat for dinner, snack, or other eating occasion. Sometimes your portions are bigger and sometimes they’re smaller.

A “serving” is a unit of measure used to describe the amount of food recommended from each food group. It is the amount of food listed on the Nutrition Facts panel on packaged food or the amount of food recommended in the Food Guide Pyramid and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

For example, you ate a turkey sandwich for lunch today. If you deconstruct the sandwich, it has 2 pieces of bread (2 servings of grain), 4 oz. of turkey (4 servings of lean protein), 2 slices of tomato and 1 leaf of lettuce (barely 1 serving vegetables), mustard, and 2 slices avocado (1/2-1 serving of fat). Did you realize that 2 slices of bread was 2 servings or did you think that the 2 slices were one serving? And if you went for the “sub” sandwich, you’re looking at the equivalent of 4-6 servings of bread. Oh my!

How about this one: One order of Starbucks oatmeal with dried fruit, nuts, and brown sugar. That’s 2 servings of grain (not one), 1 serving of fruit, one serving of fat, and 1 tbs. sugar (extra calories, no nutritional value).

Portions, servings. Aaaaahhhh! How much should you be eating? There’s no one answer to that $64,000 question, as it depends on your gender, age, height, weight, activity level, and metabolic type. A Registered Dietitian is the best person to help you figure out what’s best for you.

The other problem is the portion distortion we live with, thanks to the super-sizing of everything out there. Whether it’s the fast food joints over-sized menu offerings, or the produce that’s been bred to be bigger (just check out the size of the apples in the market), we no longer know what a normal serving of food is supposed to look like. As a result, we’re eating more and steadily gaining weight.

The best thing you can do is to study up on the matter. Break out the measuring cups and spoons and get acquainted with what 1/2 cup of cooked rice (1 serving) really looks like. Don’t just freely pour the oil from the bottle – measure it out. And don’t be fooled into thinking that the healthy boneless, skinless chicken breast you ordered at the restaurant is 3 ounces (probably more like five or six ounces). Get familiar with your food so you can bring your portion sizes back into a more healthful range. You might be surprised that you’ll lose a few pounds in the process.

If you want a great “cheat-sheet” for proper portion sizes of foods, click on the link. It can be printed and cut out and will fit in your wallet for easy access.



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