How Much is One Serving?: Figuring Out Portion Control to Gain Control of Your Waistline

How Much is One Serving?: Figuring Out Portion Control to Gain Control of Your Waistline

It never fails. When my waistline starts growing in the wrong direction, there are three culprits.

  1. I’m getting less physical activity.
  2. I’m eating more junk food and snacking often. (I love to graze!)
  3. I’m eating mammoth portions of food.

When I lost a significant amount of weight several years ago, the advice I was given from experienced dieters was to learn what a portion size truly was. It was the single most important tool in my weight loss arsenal that made the most difference in how quickly I got back into shape and regained my health.

Two tips to get you started are to (1) buy a food scale and (2) learn to read nutrition labels.

Buy a food scale. It's one of the best tools to learn to visualize portion sizes. Don’t be misled by advice such as a portion of meat is the size of your palm. People have vastly different sized hands!

Learn to read nutrition labels. All packaged items have a nutrition label that states the portion size right at the top. You’ll be surprised at how deceiving a single box of crackers can be. Often there will be two servings in the package. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!


Image: Christian Cable via Flickr

What is a portion you ask?

  • Vegetables = 1 cup raw, 1/2 cup cooked, or 1 cup leafy vegetables.
  • Fruits = 1 medium piece of fruit, or 1/2 cup chopped or frozen.
  • Meat: poultry or fish = 3 - 4 ounces cooked.
  • Beans, legumes, and rice = 1/2 cup cooked.
  • Dairy: milk and yogurt = 8 ounces.
  • Whole grain breads and cereals = 1 standard slice, or 3/4 cup.
  • Healthy fats like olive, canola, coconut oil, or butter = 1 tablespoon.

You might find these additional resources helpful.

The American Heart Association list of portion size is a useful resource.

Web MD Portion Sized Plate offers a free wallet-sized download you can take with you.

It’s time for me to get back on track, so I’ll be taking my pocket-sized portion reminder from Web MD with me everywhere I go. After all, shorts and swimsuit season is here, and I intend to enjoy Seattle’s sunny weather!

Kristi Rimkus author of Mother Rimmy's Cooking Light Done Right


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