Size Matters

Posted by Karen Archia on
Red Grape: Tomas Sobek
Tomas Sobek|licensed under cc

Apparently, my ardent efforts at adding steamed vegetables to my meals is not a big enough step towards healthy eating. Or, more accurately, not a small enough step. According to nutrition experts such Carolyn Dunn, head of Youth, Family and Community Sciences at NC State University, paying attention to the amount of food on your plate is an important step to maintaining healthy eating habits.

 “Many people think the food portions they get in a meal at a restaurant are single servings, but that’s not usually the case, “ Dunn said. “We are suffering from ‘portion distortion.’ We often don’t know what is a single serving size.”

 According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “portion size” refers to how much we eat – which can be a large or small amount – while “serving size” is a measured amount of food or drink such as a slice of bread or 8 ounces of milk. The NIH points out that the food we buy in a single portion, can often contain multiple servings.  For example, a 20-ounce soda we usually consume as a single portion actually contains 2.5 servings.  

Think you’ve got a handle on single serving size? You can take this quiz to find out the typical size and calories in the portions of common restaurant foods such as bagels, muffins, salads and pizza. The quiz also compares today’s portion sizes to what was offered 20 years ago as standard fare.

Whether you’re eating out or cooking at home, making sure whatever you choose to eat is a single serving can be as simple as using your eyes to size up your meal. For example, The NIH describes two tablespoons of peanut butter as a single serving, roughly the size of a ping pong ball, and a healthy, single serving of cheese measures 1 ½ ounces, which equals four stacked dice. Ping pong balls and dice – winning sizes in the game of healthy eating.

For more easy ways to right-size your food, use this pocket guide with single serving visual references and check out Choose My Plate’s  road map to eating less and avoiding oversized portions. So look before you eat. If we eat with our eyes first, then we need to take notice of how much food is on the plate.


Karen Archia

Associate Producer, The Fitness Files

Photo credit: Red grape by Tom Sobek/licensed under cc, resized 

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