A guide to serving sizes

March 15, 2004 in Healthy Eating, Weight Management

A guide to serving sizes

Super-sizing has pervaded our food supply. Restaurants serve up gargantuan portions on larger plates. Fast food chains pour oceanic drinks and dish out more fries in bigger take out containers. Back in the 1950's the average soft drink size was 7 ounces. Today, if you stop in at 7-Eleven and order a Super Big Gulp you'll guzzle 44 oz. of soda along with almost 40 teaspoons of sugar.

The problem with our 'bigger is better' mentality is that we are consuming more calories. It seems that our nation's girth is keeping up with the trend to bigger portion sizes. Obesity in Canada is said to be at epidemic levels, and steadily increasing in adults and children.
But the secret to weight loss might be simpler than you think. Instead of 'super-sizing' your menu with low fat foods, you might consider paring down your portion.
A 'portion size' is just the amount of food someone eats at a sitting. A 'serving size' is a unit of measure that is based on nutrition needs. For example, Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating suggests a range of serving sizes from the four food groups based on an individual's calorie and nutrient needs. These serving sizes are what we should be paying attention to. But the first step is for consumers to be aware of how many servings they require each day. I recommend that people log on to Health Canada's website (www.hc-sc.gc.ca) to determine how many servings they should be eating each day.
According the Canada's Food Guide, here are serving size guidelines for various foods that will help you visualize what a serving is (you don't need to carry measuring cups with you!):

What’s a Serving Size? MEAT & ALTERNATIVES
(Canada's Food Guide recommends 2-3 servings per day)

Meat/fish/poultry 3 ounces (90 grams) A deck of cards or a computer mouse
Beans/lentils ½ to 1 cup (125 to 250 ml) light bulb or small fist
Tofu 3 ounces (90 grams) ½ baseball
Peanut butter 2 tablespoons (30 ml) 1 golf ball

(Canada's Food Guide recommends 6-12 servings per day)

Pasta/rice/ hot cereal/grain ½ cup (125 ml) ½ baseball or a small fist or a light bulb
Muffin 1 small 1 large egg
Bagel ½ hockey puck

(Canada's Food Guide recommends 5-10 servings per day)

Vegetables ½ cup (125 ml) ½ baseball or small fist
Salad greens 1 cup (250 ml) 1 baseball
Fruit 1 medium sized 1 tennis ball

(Canada's Food Guide recommends 2-4 servings per day)

Milk 1 cup (250 ml) small measuring cup
Yogurt ¾ cup (175 ml) small single size container
Cheese 1/5 oz. (45 grams) 3 dominos

(Canada's Food Guide recommends use in moderation)

Butter/margarine/oil 1 teaspoon (5 ml) tip of your thumb

Practice portion size self defence:

  • Buy small packages of food. Bonus size boxes of cookies, crackers, pretzels and potato chips may be a deal at Costco, but they encourage overeating. If you resist the 'more for less' thinking, you'll end up eating less. When you do shop in bulk, break jumbo packages into smaller, individual-sized portions.
  • Ask for smaller portions at meals. If you sit down to a plate overflowing with food, chances are you'll clear your plate ' a habit that's rooted in childhood. If you don't serve yourself at dinner, instruct whoever does to put less food on your plate. When dining out split an entr'e, or order two appetizers. And don't be afraid to ask for a doggie bag.
  • Use smaller plates. Serve less food on a luncheon-sized plate. The plate looks full and you're satisfied with less.
  • Add fruit and vegetables to meals. Low cal, high fibre fruit and vegetables add volume to meals and increase your sense of fullness.
  • Plate your snacks. Never, ever, snack out of the bag. When you continually reach your hand in that bag of pretzels, you don't pay attention to portion size and end up eating far more than you should. Whether your snack is crackers, popcorn, or baked tortilla chips, measure out your portion and put it on a plate. Check the serving size on the nutrition label to determine what a serving size is.
  • Slow the pace. Chew your food thoroughly. Put more emphasis on conversation and the people around you.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.