Size Up Your Portions: Nutrition Facts

Portion sizes have been increasing, helping increase our waistlines too. Learn the facts to size up your food portions to help control weight and waste.
Size Up Your Portions: Nutrition Facts - Videos

Instructors

Nutrition research and education Diabetes education Child overweight prevention Food Safety education Food Preservation

More by Lynn James, MS, RDN, LDN 

Cathy Guffey

View Transcript

- [Voiceover] Size up your portions.

Do you know how much food you eat?

Being aware of the food portion sizes you eat can help you stay within the daily recommended calorie range.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between food portion and a food serving.

So what exactly is a food serving?

Food servings are defined by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, and the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA.

The USDA and FDA define a serving as the standard amount of a food that is listed on the Nutrition of Facts panel of a food label.

Food portions on the other hand, are the unregulated amounts of food that you are served in a restaurant or that you eat at home.

Portion sizes in the last few decades have increased dramatically.

Studies show that Americans whatever amount is put in front of them.

This is why it is so important to know your food portion sizes.

There are no right or wrong portion sizes, however, choosing reasonable portion sizes will help you work towards a healthy weight.

A good tip is to use a smaller plate to help you limit your food portions to reasonable sizes.

Let's take a look at an example of serving sizes.

In this case, we're look at grains, specifically spaghetti.

Suppose a woman who is on a recommended 1,800 calorie meal plan is eating spaghetti for dinner.

For her 1,800 calorie plan, the USDA allows six servings of grains each day.

1/2 cup of cooked spaghetti is equal to one ounce of uncooked spaghetti.

This amount is one serving of spaghetti.

If this woman usually eats two cups of spaghetti, that means she would be consuming four servings of grain from the spaghetti.

She would then only have two grain allowances left for the rest of the day.

This information might motivate the woman to eat less spaghetti, thus saving grains for another part of her day.

It should be noted that the serving size listed on the Nutrition Facts panel is not the amount that is recommended for you to consume.

It is however, a resource that allows you to easily compare the amount of nutrients in one food to a similar food.

For example, if you want to compare the amount of saturated fat in two different types of cookies, it is easy to do since the serving size of each will be similar in regards to weight.

This can be a useful resource if you are trying to reduce saturated fat, sodium, sugar, cholesterol, or any other nutrient listed on the label.

This can also be helpful if you are looking to increase a certain nutrient in your diet, like protein, fiber, or one of the vitamins or minerals listed.

You can use USDA's MyPlate as a guide to check your daily food portions.

MyPlate provides recommended daily food group amounts, which are given in cups and ounces.

Let's take a look at the different food groups, and some standard food servings.

Grains, the daily recommended amount of grains is six ounces.

Some examples of a serving of grains include, one slice of bread, one cup of ready-to-eat cereal, and 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal.

Vegetables, the daily recommended amount of vegetables is two and 1/2 cups.

Some examples of a one cup serving of vegetables include, one cup of raw or cooked vegetables, one cup of 100% vegetable juice, one cup of cooked dry beans, and two cups of raw leafy greens.

Fruits, the daily recommended amount of fruits is one and 1/2 cups.

Some examples of a one cup serving of fruit include, one cup of cut-up fruit, one cup of 100% fruit juice, 1/2 cup of dried fruit, and one piece of whole fruit.

Dairy, the daily recommended amount of dairy is three cups.

Some examples of a one cup serving of dairy include, one cup of milk, one cup of yogurt, one and 1/2 ounces of hard cheese, or two ounces of processed cheese, 1/3 cup of shredded cheese, and one cup of pudding or frozen yogurt.

Protein, the daily recommended amount of protein is five ounces.

Some examples of a one ounce serving of protein include, one ounce of meat, poultry or fish, 1/4 cup of cooked dry beans, one egg, one tablespoon of peanut butter, and 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds.

So, how can you tell what size is a good food portion?

When you eat away from home, use your hand as a guide to measure your portions.

The average size of a woman's palm or 2/3 of an average man's palm, is about three ounces or 1/2 cup.

Using your palm as a visual tool, can help you to choose appropriate portion sizes.

When you eat at home, put your food on your plate as usual, and then measure the amount of food on the plate to find out what your normal portion size is.

After you have done this a few times, it will be easier to visually know what different portion sizes are without measuring.

Being aware of the food portion sizes you eat can help you to remain in the daily recommended calorie range.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between a food portion and a food serving.

You can also check out www.choosemyplate.gov for more information, tools, and resources, like the daily food plan and much more.

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