Portions Vs. Servings

One plate with a large serving of spaghetti next to one plate with a smaller serving of spaghetti

By: Kroger Customer Connect Dietitian Team, Sarah Koeninger, Molly Hembree, Karen Ilhardt

Is there really a difference between portion and serving size? YES! It’s important to know the difference when it comes to focusing on health and keeping that calorie count controlled. It’s especially important for people to be aware of their food consumption around the holidays. Our Dietitian and Home Economist Services teams at Kroger Customer Connect have joined forces to help provide some different perspectives on the topic of portions versus servings.

A portion is the amount of a food that we choose to eat, while a serving is the amount of food that nutrition labels are based upon. If we choose to eat 2 Simple Truth Uncured Chicken Hot Dogs, it would be 1 portion. However, it would be 2 servings. Portion sizes are more variable (thus requiring us to have “more control”) than serving sizes. Taking the time to read the nutrition labels on packages will show how much of a food or drink is considered to be 1 serving.

The serving sizes are based on weight or metric units and can also be listed in measurable terms such as count, tablespoons, cups or ounces. A little math must be done to determine the true impact of our portions; we need to multiply the calories in a serving by the number of servings actually consumed. The concept of a serving gets even more confusing knowing that the amount listed on the package is required to be within an acceptable range or reference amount determined by the FDA. This makes it confusing when trying to use the “serving”-based food guidelines from the USDA. The change from the USDA’s MyPyramid to the Choose My Plate model gives focus to the portions of food recommended. It makes judging our intake of foods easier — more visual. Overall calorie recommendations have not been changed.

It may be beneficial to think in terms of the size of common objects to get a better idea of just what a serving of food looks like. Here are some quick reference serving sizes: 

  • 1 cup of raw vegetables is about the size of a fist.
  • 1 piece of fruit is visually equal to a tennis ball.
  • ½ cup of cooked beans is similar in size to a light bulb.
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is visually comparable to a golf ball.
  • A single-serving baked potato is the size of a computer mouse.
  • 1 cup of cereal is about the size of a baseball.
  • 3 ounces of cooked meat is close in overall size to a deck of cards.
  • 1 ounce of cheese is around the size of four stacked dice. 

Here are some ways of looking at the Choose My Plate concept with regard to portions. It’s still advised to consult a family doctor before starting a weight loss or weight gain program.

  • Perhaps the most noticeable section: half of your plate is fruits and vegetables. Simple Truth® offers many fresh and frozen fruit and vegetable options. Be aware that the fresh item supply may vary based on location and season. Fruits and vegetables greatly contribute to disease prevention, weight management and appetite control, as well as bone, skin and eye health.
  • The other half of your plate should include the grain and protein categories. An obtainable goal is to make half your grains whole. Whole grains come in the form of: 100% whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, pasta, brown rice and even popcorn. Take this opportunity to try out some grains such as: Simple Truth™ Organic Red Quinoa (also considered a vegetable), Simple Truth™ Natural Steel Cut Oats or Simple Truth Organic™ Long Grain Brown Rice. Your protein choices could include Simple Truth™ Grass-Fed Ground Beef, Simple Truth™ Organic Free-range Turkey, Simple Truth™ Natural Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts or Simple Truth™ Meatless Griller Strips.
  • The last part of your plate should be the dairy or calcium-fortified non-dairy alternatives. This group is indicated by a circle on the upper right of the plate and could include a serving of Simple Truth Organic™ 1% or Soy Milk, Simple Truth Organic™ Blueberry Low-fat Yogurt, Simple Truth Organic™ Firm Tofu or Simple Truth Organic™ Ricotta Cheese.

It’s time for us to “put a fork in it” and be done with oversized portions, high-fat meat and dairy products, high-sugar snacks and bulging waistlines. Don’t wait until the New Year to make a resolution to be more aware of servings and portions. Simple Truth® offers many options for simply eating better. Take the time to reconnect with family at the dinner table, demand the best nutrition for you and others and create an environment conducive to optimal health for those around you.