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Managing Portions and Serving Sizes is Key to Healthy Balanced Weight Loss

Posted Nov 09 2011 12:52am

Managing Portions and Servings is Key to Healthy Balanced Weight Loss

Managing Portions and Servings is Key to Healthy Balanced Weight Loss

You’ve probably heard that we Americans are suffering from serious portion distortion.

Portion sizes have grown dramatically over the last several decades, which explains (at least partially) why our waistlines are getting bigger and obesity is on the rise.

To see for yourself check out this interesting article on  Portions Then & Now  at Divine Caroline.

What Exactly Is One Serving?

Portion sizes (especially those served at restaurants) are so out of control these days that it’s a good idea to review what counts as one “serving” from the different food groups. For example, one large bagel can weigh as much as 4 ounces and count as 4 servings of bread! (Almost your whole allotment of starch if you are a woman who’s trying to lose weight.)

So, it’s important to keep these servings in mind as eat your way through your day:

Grains and Starches: One serving of starchy food can be 1 slice of bread; 1/2 cup cooked grain like rice, oats or pasta; 3/4 cup cold cereal; 1 medium potato; or 1/2 cup corn. Women trying to lose weight should shoot for 4–6 servings per day; men who want to lose weight should aim for 6–9.

Fruits & Vegetables: One serving of vegetables is 1/2 cup cooked vegetables, 1 cup raw leafy greens (like lettuce), or 3/4 cup vegetable juice. One serving of fruit can be 1 medium fruit (like an apple or orange); 1/2 banana; 1 cup melon or fresh berries; 3/4 cup fruit juice; or 1/4 cup dried fruit. Women should enjoy at least 2 fruit servings and 3 vegetable servings a day, while men should have at least 3 servings of fruit and 4 of vegetables.

Protein & Dairy: Examples of 1 serving of protein are 1 ounce meat, poultry, or fish; 1 egg; 1/2 cup beans, tofu, or tempeh; 1/3 cup nuts; or 2 tablespoons of nut butter.  One serving of dairy can be 1 cup milk or yogurt; 1/2 cup cottage cheese; or 1 1/2 ounces cheese. For women, 4–8 servings of protein and 2–3 servings of dairy are a good target; men can increase protein to 7–12 servings. It’s okay to eat an additional 1–2 servings of low-fat dairy products each day if you like.

Fats & Oils: A serving of fats and oils is 2 teaspoons of oil, butter, margarine, or mayonnaise; 2 tablespoons of regular salad dressing; or 4 tablespoons of reduced-fat dressing. Women should aim for 4–8 servings per day; men, 9–12.

It’s possible to get back to reasonable sized portions and you don’t need measuring cups and scales to accomplish it. Just use everyday objects as portion size reminders. Here are some examples:

Sizing Up Servings with Visual Cues


Portions Then & Now – A great article with visuals depicting just how much our portions have grown the past 20 years at Divine Caroline

The Portion Distortion Guide – A list of serving sizes found at SparkPeople

Making Sense of Portion Sizes – found at Meals Matter

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