Portions sizes in the United States are getting bigger and bigger as time goes on. Whenever I go to a restaurant, I am always so surprised at how much food I get when I order a single meal. At most places, one meal could feed my whole family! Food “Quantity over Quality” has definitely stuck here in the US amongst many other places. Portions have doubled, and in some cases tripled, over the past twenty years. Take a look at this chart from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. It is crazy to see the changes in certain foods.

Comparison of Portions and Calories 20 Years Ago to Present Day

***Click image to enlarge***

**If you want to take a quiz to see how other foods have changed over the years, click here

Portion control is not only super important for losing weight, but also for maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. We always hear “control your portion sizes!”, but what exactly does that mean? Are portion sizes the same as serving sizes? Here is a little info on portions and servings.

Portions: The amount of food that you choose to eat for a meal or snack.

Servings: A measured amount of food or drink. Found on nutrition labels.  

When eating, you can be given one plate of food (one portion), but it can end up being three serving sizes. Like I said earlier, this happens a ton at restaurants. Most restaurants serve huge portions of food. Serving sizes are usually a lot smaller than we think. So, how do we know how many servings are in a portion of food? Here is a guide from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute on how to know what a serving size. This guide takes familiar objects, like a deck of cards, and compares them to different foods so that we have a better idea of what a serving size looks like.  

Ideas to help keep your portion sizes under control:  

When eating out:

*Share with someone.

*Split your meal in half at the start of your meal. Before eating, put the other half of your meal in a to go box so that you won’t be tempted by it when your first half is gone.

*Get the lunch portion if offered (some restaurants will give you the lunch portion at dinner if you ask).

*Remember that you don’t have to get the best bang for your buck! If you are getting the humongous breakfast burrito only because you get a pound of food for a dollar, don’t fall into that trap! Look for a healthier and smaller option.

Eating at home:

*Serve food on individual plates instead of putting the serving dishes on the table. This will get rid of the temptation to get seconds…and thirds…and fourths;) haha

*Use smaller plates. Studies have shown that people consume far less calories when the plates that they are eating off of are smaller.

*Make half of your plate fruits and veggies: Fruits and veggies are packed full of nutrients, and do not have many calories per serving. They are full of fiber, which will help you feel satisfied. Our bodies are used to volume. We are used to eating a certain amount of food and when we don’t get that amount, we feel hungry or unsatisfied. If we replace half of our plate with fruits and veggies, we will still get the same amount of food, just a lot less calories.:) You can also add more veggies while cooking. For example, 1 cup of plain chicken alfredo pasta has many calories, but if you add lots of veggies to it, the veggies take up some of the space and the same portion size has less calories.

*Divide bulk items: If you buy things in bulk, try splitting the package up into individual portion sizes.  


*Put the amount of food that you are planning on eating into a separate bowl or dish. Try not to eat straight from the package. When we eat straight from the package, we tend to eat more without realizing it.

*Instead of having a jar full of your favorite candy sitting on the table, have a bowl full of fresh fruit sitting there.

*Try to keep the tempting foods, like chips or cookies, in hard to get to places and keep the healthy foods in places that are more visible. Remember, “out of sight, out of mind!”  

Hopefully some of these ideas will help you in your quest to control your portions.


{Picture from NIH}