Serving Size Surprises

Nov 4th, 2014

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Category: Nutrition

Serving Size Surprises

For many, one of the main goals of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is learning how to eat less. Part of the problem is that we don’t have a realistic idea of what constitutes a serving. In an era of to-go packaging, super-sized meals and free refills, generous portion sizes have become the norm. Over the past 50 years the size of a hamburger has tripled, a basket of fries more than doubled, and the average soda has grown from a modest 7 ounces to a jumbo 42 ounces, according to Center for Disease Control.

In addition, eating habits you learned from a young age can be difficult to break: “it’s okay to have seconds,” “clean your plate,” “you deserve dessert!” But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. You can train your body to feel full with less, just as it has become accustomed to needing more. 

What is a Serving Size?

The first step is to learn serving size. Take a minute to read the label! You might be surprised to find out how many crackers really constitute a serving or that your favorite beverage is pre-packaged as two servings … or even more. If you are paying attention to what you are eating (which you should be!), it is critical to understand how much food is going into your body. Food portion sizes shouldn’t be a surprise, unless you are going by what you want to eat versus what your body needs.

One serving is equivalent to:

    One medium-size fruit (size of a tennis ball, your fist or a light bulb).
  • * Wake up with an orange for breakfast
  • * Add a sweet crunch to your lunch with an apple
  • * A pear is a quick and easy dessert


    ½ cup cooked, frozen or canned vegetables or fruit (smaller than a can of tuna fish).
  • * Grab some baby carrots for a snack
  • * Order pizza with mushrooms, onions, peppers, broccoli or spinach–that’s more than one serving
  • * Place sliced, canned peaches or berries on low-fat ice cream


    1 cup of raw leafy vegetables (a handful of greens counts as one serving).

    • * Add a handful of baby spinach to your sandwich wrap
    • * Have a mixed green salad with a slice of veggie-topped pizza for lunch
    • * Keep washed greens in the fridge for a quick salad snack


    ½ cup cooked dry peas or beans (think smaller than a can of tuna fish again).

    • * Add canned or frozen beans to vegetable soup
    • * Make a salad with a variety of lima, red kidney or green beans, diced onions and Italian dressing
    • * Toss pinto and garbanzo beans into a green salad


Keep Portions in Check

Don’t be fooled by what society is telling you is the right amount of food. Eat what’s right for you. You can always go back for more, and believe it or not it’s okay to feel hungry in-between meals on occasion! Here are some things to try to keep portions in check:

  • * Serve meals already dished onto plates instead of placing serving bowls on the table. This allows you to think twice before having a second portion.


  • * Use a smaller appetizer plate or festive party bowl to make the food seem like more.


  • * Eat slowly and savor each bite. When you eat too fast, your brain doesn’t get the signal that you’re full until too late and you’ve already overeaten.


  • * Eat foods that are healthy and low in calories first. You can eat a lot of these foods without taking in a lot of calories. When at a party, for example, hit the vegetable and fruit trays first.


  • * Focus on your meal and your company when eating. Watching television, reading or working while you eat can distract you. Before you know it, you’ve eaten much more than you meant to.


  • * Stop eating as soon as you begin to feel full. Don’t feel as if you need to clean your plate or finish the last bite.


  • * Designate one area of the house to eat meals, such as the kitchen table, and sit to eat your meals.


  • * If you’re still hungry after you’ve finished what’s on your plate, wait 20 minutes, mingle with other guests, and then if you are still hungry, nibble on something low in calories, such as fresh vegetables or fruit.


  • * When ordering at a restaurant, request a take-home container. When you receive your meal, put part of it in the container. Or, ask that one-half of your meal be put into a container before the meal is served. Portion sizes in restaurants can be two to three times the amount you need.


  • * The next time you’re at a restaurant split an entrée with someone at your table.


Balanced Nutrition

Aside from ensuring that you eat a variety of real, whole foods, keeping portion sizes in check should be the top of your priority list in order to maintain or lose weight. If you need help getting portion sizes under control while ensuring you are getting enough balanced nutrition (things have changed so much sometimes it seems like a drastic move to eat the right amount!), talk to one of our wellness coaches. We’ll get you on the right track to a healthier you!

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