Making Sense of Portion Sizes

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Making Sense of

Portion Sizes

Many people, athletes included, tend to underestimate the amount of food they eat and have little idea what an actual serving size is.

You might be surprised how small decreases or increases in serving size impact weight and body composition. If you feel you are already eating a healthy, nutrient dense diet and cannot seem to lose weight, it’s probably due to PORTION DISTORTION. For example, try pouring out your usual portion of cooked pasta. One “serving” of pasta = ½ cup cooked. And while one serving is not adequate, 3 cups of cooked pasta = 6 servings may be more of that food than you need.

What is a serving lists the serving sizes per food group that are equivalent to one serving. The following list is an easy way, short of measuring your food, to determine approximate amounts of foods. Serving Size Handout

  • Woman's fist or baseball – 1 cup

  • A rounded handful - about one half cup

  • Deck of cards or a woman’s palm size = approximately 4 ounces.

  • Golf ball or large egg - one quarter cup

  • Tennis ball - about one cup of

  • Computer mouse - about the size of a small baked potato or ¾ cup

  • Compact disc - about the size of one serving of pancake or small waffle

  • Thumb tip - about one teaspoon (useful for estimating fats, peanut butter, cream cheese, salad dressing amounts)

  • 4 dice – an ounce of cheese

  • Check book -3 ounces meat or cheese

  • Eyeball it! - Take a look at the recommended serving sizes on the new USDA MyPyramid Food Guidance System. At home, you could get out a measuring cup or a food scale and practice measuring some of your favorite foods onto a plate, so that you can see how much (or how little!) a ½ cup or 3-ounce serving is. This will help you to "eyeball" amounts for future meals and while eating out. Do not weight and measure all of your food. This level of preoccupation can create a increased risk for dysfunctional eating. And remember the easiest way to manage portions is to eat a variety of foods at your major meals. Always a low fat protein, always a high fiber whole fruit and or vegetable and always some whole grains.

Label portion sizes DO NOT always correspond to the US Dietary Guidelines and Food Guide Pyrmaid serving sizes which estimate caloric requirements for different individuals.

For example, the label on a small container or nuts (1/2 cup) label may claim that it contains 3 servings. This might be done by manufactures to make the calorie content per serving seem more acceptable to the consumer.

Also, keep in mind that a “grab bag” or single serving claim on a label often DOES NOT correlate to a single serving according to the dietary recommendations. A grab bag of chips could easily contain 2-3 servings if compared to standard serving sizes.

Take a mment to look over what standard serving sizes are for common foods.

Ingrid Skoog MS, RD, CSSD

Oregon State University

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