Portion Control - Serving Size

adellabedella_usaMarch 31, 2009

I hope no one is offended that I'm posting this in the Money Saving Tips. I think it could be relevant.

Does anyone have a good resource for the correct portioning of food? My dh and I are taking a good hard look at our food. I'd like to figure out what we have based on correct serving size?


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The American Heart Association has excellent dietary guidelines for portion control. Weight Watchers is another great site ---

The big thing is to read the label. And really measure. We think that an ounce of cereal is alot more than it actually is.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 4:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I think it certainly does relate to money saving.
I grew up with a mom who regulated the proteins carefully. At dinner, for instance, we ate family style and when we had fried chicken we each had one breast piece or two drumsticks. If we wanted more, too bad. There was always plenty of vegetables and starches but expensive snacks, meats, ice cream, etc was controlled. We were all thin and healthy.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 4:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I try to follow the USDA guidelines. The hardest part is probably eating enough fruit (2 cups/day) and veg (2.5 cups/day). They also recommend 5 oz Protein and 6 oz of grain per day. Its possible to make significant changes to your diet with enough motivation.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dietary guidelines

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 5:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

adella, We follow a food lifestyle similar to what is outlined in Eat for Health by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. His main premise is about nutrient density and so he has a formula for trying to achieve the maximum nutrition in a day which comes down to unlimited amounts of fruits and vegetables and limiting other types of food.

An easier method is to trying to get 1 pound of fresh and 1 pound of cooked veggies a day but that is not cheap and I admit that we are still working on it.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 5:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You could go try to google a metabolic rate calculator. This will give you an idea of how many calories you are burning every day to maintian your current weight. Once you know that you can deteremine appropriate portion sizes.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 11:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A rule of thumb - from the tip to the lst knuckle square is equal to about 1 oz of cheese.

A deck of cards, or the palm of your hand is about 3-3.5 ounces of meat.

A tennis ball is equal to about 1 serving of fruit.

One needs 10 calories per pound of body weight just to live; ie. 10 x 150pounds = 1500 calories per day.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 3:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm a stickler for portion control - all those classes I've taken and given on nutrition and foods, I guess.... It's second nature to control portion sizes after all these years. Portion control also keeps us from overeating and wasting food.

Instead of following the USDA MyPyramid, my husband and I follow the old "Basic-Four" because it has fewer total calories and fewer carbohydrates, which works best for us at our age and activity level. It also makes meal planning simpler and we get a good variety of foods.

I also stick to whole foods for higher concentrations of nutrients (nutrition is what feeds the body, not empty calories) and fiber (which makes you feel fuller longer) for the amount of food consumed, and choose foods on the lower half of the Glycemic Index of Foods (foods that don't raise blood sugar as readily - due to diabetes in hubby's family and we're trying to avoid it). If you are an active person, the Basic-4 may not be enough total calories, and the amounts suggested in the USDA MyPyramid may work better.

I still follow the serving size guidelines of MyPyramid (http://www.nutritionexplorations.org/educators/pyramid-servings.asp). If we add any foods beyond the Basic-4, it's fruits and/or vegetables, and we include a variety of nuts each day in our diet.


Bread & Cereal - 4 servings
Fruits & Vegetables - 4 servings
Meat/Meat Alternative - 2 servings
Milk/Dairy - 2-servings

You can also Google - Making Sense of Portion Sizes - for more guidelines.


--Pasta is a prime place it's easy to over-indulge. It's not unusual for people to consume an entire days allowance of bread/cereal in one bowl/plate of pasta, PLUS all those bread sticks. Which is perfectly okay IF you didn't have any bread/cereal foods the rest of the day. But most people consume 3-5 servings by suppertime.

A serving of pasta is 1/2-cup (cooked). I count 35 sticks of spaghetti for one serving (as an easy reference) - so for the two of us, I'll cook 70 sticks of spaghetti. It's about the size of a dime when you grip it all together - as another way to "eyeball" it.

It's somewhat a false notion that you can "stretch" meat by mixing it with pasta - a tuna noodle casserole - to make it go farther. You still need to count the amount of pasta serving/s consumed, as well as the amount of meat, no matter how few bits of meat (and other protein foods within the mixture) you put in the casserole. Pasta does NOT make up for lack of protein.... Mixed foods (casseroles) are more difficult to gauge the amount of servings of each food. Something, like a taco or taco salad is easier to gauge servings than a mixed-food casserole.

Breads can be tricky, too - an English Muffin is 2-servings, a hamburger/hot dog bun is 2 servings, a slice of bread is generally 1-serving (1-oz.), and that's another place people easily make a mistake. It's easy to consume 3-4 servings of bread/cereal in a large portion of cornbread. I cut an 8-inch pan of cornbread into 16 portions and use one as a serving. I scale (weigh on a kitchen scale) yeast breads for baking so I know if there is 1 or 2 servings of bread/cereal in each portion.

I make all our bread and I'll make small loaves and use smaller bread pans for baking. Because the loaves are smaller, I can cut each slice to 1/2-ounce without them falling apart. The slices still have the appearance of a regular slice of bread, but now TWO slices used for a sandwich is equal to 1-serving.

When you make a jumbo-size loaf of bread and cut it into slices, it's easy to have as much as 2-ounce per slice, so think smaller loaf sizes to begin with. A Tea Loaf (or Danish Loaf) Pan is a good example (from King Arthur Flour) of a pan that works well for making a long thin loaf for easy slicing into thin slices. This pan is 12" x 4" x 2 1/2" and holds 2-pounds of dough or a quick bread recipe that fits into a 9x5-inch loaf pan. You can get LOTS more slices using this pan over the 9x5-inch pan (generally used for quick breads or yeast breads where the dough weighs 2# or has 4-cups of flour in the recipe.

Fruit/vegetable juice is occasionally a problem area. First, it counts as a fruit or vegetable, not just a beverage to quench thirst. A serving is 3/4 c. (think of those tiny cans of V-8), not that 16-ounce iced tea tumbler full. Remember those tiny glasses that were used for juice "back when"? Choose 100% fruit or vegetable juices for more nutrition. Juice-type drinks are often nothing more than empty calories (high fructose corn syrup for a sweetener) with a pinch of a chemical form of vitamin C and flavoring. Scientist don't understand all the synergy found in the whole orange when we consume the entire fruit - each part of the fruit/juice works together for the best form of nutrients over taking out bits and pieces of it.

We certainly know there is little to nothing to be found in the form of a REAL food value in Tang. Ascorbic acid is only a small portion of the vitamin C complex, and ascorbic acid is considered "vitamin C" when used for enrichment. So "fake" foods rarely ever contain even a small amount of nutrition that the whole food would. When freshly-milled whole wheat flour has 25 vitamins, minerals and proteins, as well as the high fiber benefit, why would anyone choose bleached/unbleached flour?

Compared to whole wheat, white bread is missing:
-96% of the vitamin E
-78% of dietary fiber
-72% of magnesium
-62% of zinc
-50% of folic acid
-72% of chromium
-78% of vitamin B6
plus phytochemicals

The missing nutrients in white bread are critical to:
-immune function
-cell communication
-appetite control
-preventing "free radicals"
-fetal brain development
-plus many other functions

I consider "fake" food "death by deception".


    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 11:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think I have the book "The Portion Teller" by Young memorized. No large portions in this house or eating out. If considering eating out, I go to the restaurants website and scrutinize their foods and nutritional counts. If they don't provide this information, we eat elsewhere. It is quite common for my husband and I to share a sandwich when eating out at lunch and it really is more than enough.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2009 at 8:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have a problem getting a full days portion of vegetables as I'm not that fond of most veggies and have to remind myself to fix them. I do, however, like to juice and enjoy several combinations of vegetables juiced. I save the pulp to use in breads and muffins but probably don't get as much of the roughage as I should. My question is how much am I losing in nutrient value and how do I calculate the necessary daily servings to replace regular vegetable servings per day?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 9:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Several years ago when I worked as a clergyperson and went to help a farmer put drainage tile into his field for several days, I noted that the amount of food that I ate expanded rapidly.

Now that I'm a lazy, sluggish old fart, I find that I don't eat much ... but when I've been cultivating and planting garden in recent days, my food consumption changed substantially.

When I eat at a restaaaurant, I routinely bring a box of food home with me and it feeds me for another day or so.

The amount of food that our body requires for good nutrition varies substantially, depending on our lifestyle.

Cars need spare tires(1) - people don't.

ole joyful

1. And it seems to me to make a lot more sense to make the spare tire on a car one that I can use for the regular length of life of an operational tire ... rather than a crutch that I can use only to get me back home.

o j

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 3:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Lots of good information here! Grainlady, I haven't seen any of your posts in awhile -- so good to see you again! I am about out of the wheat flour that my friend at the bakery let me grind using her Nutrimill, and I've ordered one! They've knocked $30 off the price in honor of up-coming July 4. Baking with true whole grain is a bit of a challenge for me but I'm making good progress. Yesterday I baked a couple of bricks but it was a new recipe! LOL

Portion control is really an important part of learning to eat right. The other half of the equasion is in choosing nutritious food. When I was a kid, my mother controlled the proteins, but we could have as much of anything else that we wanted. I would really tank up on the home-made noodles, bread and biscuits, and gravy, and I was a fat kid until I got sick of the kids teasing me at school and put myself on a diet.

When I think how I fed my kids, back 20 to 40 years ago, and thought I was doing the right thing -- it just makes me SICK. I bought Hi-C fruit drink because it was "made with REAL juice!" (probably less than 10%). And the bread was Wonder Bread (builds strong bodies 12 ways!). I used "enriched" white flour for everything I baked, and I made a lot of sugary things (white sugar, of course) that they literally gobbled. At least I knew better than to buy those sugary boxed cereals, but in light of all the rest, it is no comfort.

Portion control is something that is a lot easier if you start when your children are young. I never did, unfortunately. DH was a welder and he worked really hard every day, and really burned the calories. He was not overweight and I wanted to make sure he had as much as he wanted at every meal. DS was one of those tall skinny kids and so the situation was the same for him. But DD was like me, prone to overweight. She was a pudgy teen and only got heavier after she was grown. Since we were on a limited income, I made a lot of casseroles and the like with starch "stretchers", usually glued together with cheese and/or canned cream soup and/or sour cream. And Grainlady, you've hit the nail on the head about the pasta and how people can eat their whole day's worth of starch in one plate of pasta. In our case, it was often more than that!

Calirose, you are spot-on with the visual portion sizes. I was in Weight Watchers several years ago when they did a program on that using those same visuals. Several of us were coming in each week with only a half pound loss or less and were getting discouraged. I was shocked to see how little "a serving" is! I totally agree that eating out is a major contributing factor to eating portions that are too large. So also is eating fast, because you don't get the signal that you're full till you're already past it.

As some of you know, I've been working on trying to lose weight by eating the right foods and in the right amounts. I have noticed that I have hardly any cravings now, and I am getting full much sooner than I used to. I don't know if one's stomach actually shrinks, or if it's a chemical thing, or what, but it's working for me in a way that's quite painless. DH is not willing to give up his store-bought "wheat bread" or his sugary treats. There is cake sitting on the counter that he and DGS have been eating but I have not had one piece of it. (I bake it using a cake mix and frost it with canned frosting because that's what he likes and if I don't, he goes to the bakery and buys one that costs ten times more.) We ate out several times last week because we were traveling, and DH ordered pie. Oddly enough, it really doesn't bother me to have him eat something like that in front of me, except for the fact that I wish he'd make wiser choices for himself.

Portion control is certainly a big money-saving activity. Especially now that food prices have jumped so. And not only that, it's a time-saver, too. Last week, I made fried chicken, using some legs and thighs I had bought on sale. I fried the whole ten pound bag. Then, after they cooled, I put the extra pieces on a cookie sheet and froze them. DH loves fried chicken and will normally eat several pieces during a meal and then go back to the refrigerator during the evening and eat several more. He complains to me that I cook meals that are too big. So that evening, when he went to the refrigerator looking for left-over chicken, it was all securely tucked into the freezer. He didn't say a word, but if he had, I would've reminded him of his frequent complaint. So far, he's had two more fried chicken meals from the freezer -- and got past me with one evening snack when DGS didn't eat what I had thawed out for him. OINK! But for these meals, I didn't have to stand in front of a frying pan, or do any clean up.

I have a garden, and fruit trees, in my back yard so it's not hard for me to get enough veggies and fruits.

I do have one point to make about the calories, though. It is possible to mess up your metabolism so badly that you actually burn less than 10 calories per body weight. When you cut your calories back too far, you can go into "starvation mode". At this time, your metabolism will slow down, lowering the amount of calories you need. Then, you can't stand it any longer and lose control, and the pounds come piling back on, with extra.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 12:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here in the USA we suffer from "Portion Distortion" with all the "super size" meals in restaurants and fast food places. Even the portions with the processed junk food in the supermarket freezer are often too big. I had a real wake up call when I moved to Europe for several years and came back here to the USA. I think one thing that was helpful with getting to know the visual, is to purchase an inexpensive scale and weight your food. You will soon get to know by visual how big something is after weighting it for a while.

I find that by eating whole grains and lots of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables I get sufficient fiber in aiding me to remain full through the day. Also, I drink a lot of water which helps too. I will take a quick stir fry dish with brown rice over a pasta dish any day!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 7:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I understand cooking your own food, buying sale items and using coupons to save on food. You surely don't mean that you are going to cut down on how much you eat to save money. Surely not! If you don't eat well, your body will go into a starvation mode and it will not burn calories like it normally would. Also be careful of the heart association's diet. Make sure it is an official updated site. Some I know are still using the diet they used many years ago and it has changed, you can have more red meat than they orig stated.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2009 at 9:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I do spend less money on groceries now, and what I buy now is higher quality, less processed food. It is a fact that in practicing portion control I am eating less. So it just naturally happens that my grocery dollar goes further because I'm not stuffing all of it into my mouth at one meal, so there's some left for another meal. Or two.

I think the point is not in putting oneself into starvation mode, but in being reasonable about how much we let ourselves get used to eating at a time, and therefore gaining weight, which creates health problems and forces us to spend money on doctor visits and prescriptions. :) Win-win, I think.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 1:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ok, if you consider that your stomach has a max "capacity" of one quart... look at the food on your plat- could you fit that into a one quart bottle? Your stomach starts out about the size of your fist and expands to accommodate what you put in it.

Lots of chain restaurants (especially Italian) have about a gallon of food on the plate!

My "Realization" came when I realized the capacity of my stomach and the portion sizes to fill it.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 3:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It's no wonder acid reflux is such a common ailment these days.

I think it is possible to stretch one's stomach to more than quart size, though. When I was a kid I'd go on binges with my mother. Just the two of us would eat a half gallon of ice cream, several candy bars, a pint of sour cream (mixed into onion soup mix as dip) with a bag of potato chips and maybe some other things in there, I don't remember now, all in one afternoon. By the time Dad got home at 5pm, it would all be gone, the empty containers would be down deep in the trash so he wouldn't see, and we'd eat supper with him. I don't think he ever knew, unless she was still going on binges after he retired and was home with her all day.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 6:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think the person who lived in Europe has it, I have 2 4 yr olds and the portion size for them would satisfy me, I have taken to either chosing an adult meal and deviding it between us or in places that do a Lunch menu ordering, 1 childs meal for them, and they still can't manage it! and nor can I.
my family and friends are amazed how much weight I have lost over here, "your are living in the land of the Obese, why are you lossing weight?" easy answer cos the food is mainly horrible! really really sweet, even meat! whats that about? and I have met Americans who have the same complaint!
bread taste like Cake to me! YUK! coleslaw, Sugar??? why?
rant over

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 11:07PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Barcode on the envelope?
I used a envelope which has barcode on it to send a...
Need Ideas-Extra Space/Supplemental Income
My wife and I recently had twins which upped our kid...
Cable alternatives
We are moving to a place where we are unable to get...
How to get $1.00 worth of Cdn. charitable value for 50 - 60 cents
If I buy some groceries in the food store and put them...
Quite a few made big savings on Amazon
Due to a quirk in their pricing software ... quite...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™