Food Portions Explained

Friday, April 12, 2019


Understanding our portions is a must if we want to live a healthy lifestyle. It is the “101” of weight management. Not calorie counting. Interestingly, this is not something we are ever taught. Our only reference for portion sizes are super sized references of Big Macs, Double Quarter Pounders with Cheese and all the other foods we see advertised in magazines, on TV, in restaurants, and even our grocery stores.

So how do we figure out what a right-sized portion is? This is another source of ongoing confusion. A portion is what we are served and typically eat. It can be any size. In fact, think about the portions we are served at restaurants. They tend to be huge, right? That is because a portion is what we are served but it can be made up of any number of servings. A serving is what we need to become familiar with because that is how amounts are measured and how we are provided information in terms of ingredients, nutrients, calories, pre-packaged portions and recipes.

Servings are based on the amount of calories an average person burns in a day and then is broken down into specific amounts that a person should eat per meal.  It is an average based on consuming 2000 calories per day and assumes a “net neutral” outcome…meaning you will burn in a day the same amount as you consume. This is how we keep from gaining any weight and how we can also lose weight, if that is our goal. This is a great place to start. In reality, according to a recent report provided by The Food and Agriculture Organization, Americans eat an average of over 3,600 calories a day. This is well above the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations and why people are becoming increasingly obese and facing a whole host of health challenges from heart disease and diabetes to many cancers…and these are just a few examples of obesity-related diseases.

So what are those standard serving sizes? Serving sizes are different according to the different food groups. Take a look at the back of a Livliga dinner plate. Measurements are broken down by each food group: Fruit or Vegetable (1 cup), Starch or Grain (¾ or ½ cup depending on age, gender or activity level), Protein ( 2- 6 ounces) and we even show the suggested serving size for sauces, gravies, dips, condiments and salad dressings (⅛ cup)! For drinks the standard serving size is also shown (8 ounces). And for foods you put in a bowl like cereal, soups, chili, yogurt, etc., you can see the standard serving sizes as 1 cup (first fill line) or 1 ½ cup (the second, higher fill line). It is important that we know what a standard, recommended serving size is so we can be mindful of how much we are eating and the impact it will have on our health and quality of life.


To get control of our food environment it is imperative we learn about serving sizes. We also need to understand the difference between a serving size and a portion. It is equally important that we take steps to right size our food environment. One way to do that is to cook and prepare more meals at home. That way we can control what foods we eat as well as the amounts served. Additionally, we need to have tools and a system in place to help us right size our meals. Experience and research shows that it is virtually impossible to eat right sized amounts from super sized glasses, plates and bowls. To make portions look like enough we’ll end up filling up those super-sized dishes. If we right size our tableware it becomes much easier to right size what we eat.

From portion size to serving size and from super sized to right sized we are faced with creating a new norm that will support us in a healthier and happier life.



Learn More About the Science & Psychology That Make Livliga Plates so Effective

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