Portion Size

December 1, 2011 at 9:00 am | Posted in Nutrition | 8 Comments
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Nutrition facts label on a plate. Image credit: jaylopez

You’re doing it.  You’ve switched from white to whole grain bread, made an effort to eat more vegetables, and cut back on red meat in favor of lean protein like chicken and fish.  It’s great that you’re taking steps to eat healthier, but you still have to pay attention to your portion sizes.  Even healthy foods have calories which, if eaten in excess, can lead to unwanted weight gain.  But with the way portion sizes at restaurants and grocery stores have grown over the years, it’s often difficult to judge the correct serving size for many foods.

Before we go on, it might be a good idea to explain the difference between portion and a serving.  A serving is the amount of food experts recommend you eat; a portion is the amount of food you choose to eat.  So, there may be several servings of pasta in that one plate (portion) of spaghetti at the Italian restaurant.

The serving size of packaged foods is on the Nutrition Facts label, right at the top.  The nutritional information on the label (calories, carbs, fat, sodium, etc) is all based on the serving size.  Now, this doesn’t mean you’re limited to eating one serving at a time—just be aware that if you eat two or more servings the nutrition facts go up accordingly.

Preparing meals at home gives you more control over what goes on your plate.  By using measuring cups/spoons and a kitchen scale to portion out food, you’ll get a real sense of what the serving size looks like.  If done often enough, this will help you learn to “eyeball” portions fairly accurately.  Another trick is using the size of your hand or common household objects to estimate portion size.  If you’re eating out, don’t feel you have to eat the entire plate in one sitting.  Try splitting an entrée with a friend or ask for a to-go box to be delivered with your meal and pack up half your plate before taking that first bite.

Having Diabetes doesn’t mean certain foods are “off limits”—but you do have to be more aware of what you’re eating (and how much).  Understanding serving size and portions will help you maintain good control of both your blood sugar and weight.

(Post content reviewed by MGH Nutrition Department. Image credit: jaylopez)


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  1. […] per gram and about 100-120 per tablespoon, those calories can add up quickly!  Paying attention to portion size can help prevent holiday weight gain.  And as always, include a variety of fruits and veggies; […]

  2. […] smaller plates to help control portions.  Stick with 1 small plate of appetizers and 1 small dessert (or split 2 small desserts with a […]

  3. […] snack or Mom’s Mac and Cheese go ahead and have some – just do so mindfully. Keep track of portion size, and eat slowly so you can really enjoy the food’s taste and […]

  4. […] your sugar and caloric intake for better health. Lastly, always remember is to be mindful of portion sizes! It is possible to have too much of a good thing, so always read your food labels and follow the […]

  5. […] Options: Many restaurant meals are high in calories, sodium, and fat. Not to mention the portions served are often larger than the recommended serving size. Cooking at home means you have control […]

  6. […] true when it comes to what you eat. Moderation in relation to healthy eating habits, especially portion control, can have a huge effect on your overall health! To break the phrase “everything in moderation” […]

  7. […] Eating more carbohydrates at a meal can raise blood sugar, so it’s important to think about portion size along with when we eat and what food items we choose to eat […]

  8. […] One final thing to remember:  whole grains are still high in carbohydrate.  While you’re trying out new whole grain options, remember to pay attention to portion size. […]

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