Home / Food / Food Servings and Helpings NOT the Same

Food Servings and Helpings NOT the Same

AUBURN, Ala.—We all know what we should eat. Many of us just eat a lot more of it than we should. It is not hard to eat more than the daily recommended serving of some foods, in one sitting. Restaurants across the nation often serve three to five times the recommended daily serving of meat.portion control

But exactly how much is a serving?

“As food servings have increased in recent years, so has the public’s perception of what a serving should be,” said Dr. Barbara Struempler, Alabama Extension program leader for nutritional programs.

More and more people are eating the deluxe, super and whopper size of foods. These larger portions mean more calories and often, excess weight.

Years ago, a muffin was about one ounce. Now they are 5 ounces or larger, Struempler said. Several years ago, that same muffin had only 50 calories; today it can have more than 500 calories. “Very few adults need more than 2,000 calories a day, so if you get 500 calories in one muffin, that’s a significant part of your calories for the day. Not many people can do that without gaining weight.

People should consume about two servings of protein each day. A serving of protein could be about 3 ounces of poultry, fish or a lean meat; two tablespoons of peanut butter; or one cup of legumes.

“A 3-ounce portion of meat is about the size of a deck of playing cards,” Struempler added. One hamburger patty, two thin slices of roast beef, three-fourths cup flaked fish or half a chicken breast are all about 3 ounces or one serving of meat.

shutterstock_120550729For vegetables, a cup of raw leafy vegetables or ½ cup of cooked or chopped raw vegetables equals a serving. As for fruits, ½ cup of chopped, cooked or canned fruit is one serving. A medium-sized apple, orange or banana equals two servings. A serving of orange juice is 4 ounces, but most people drink 8 to 12 ounces at a time, which equals two to three servings.

Servings add up more quickly than you think. For example, eating one cup of cereal with milk, half of a small banana or two strawberries equals a serving of each of the food groups.

One piece of bread is a serving, so a sandwich for lunch equals two servings. Four or five saltines equal one serving and a serving or rice is about the size of a tennis ball or one ice cream scoop full.

Fats should always be limited. Suggested serving sizes include 1 teaspoon oil, 1 teaspoon margarine, 2 teaspoons no-fat or low-fat mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons no-fat or low-fat mayonnaise-type salad dressing, 2 teaspoons sunflower or pumpkin seeds or 1 tablespoon nuts.

“A matchbook is about the size of a tablespoon of regular salad dressing or mayonnaise,” Struempler said. “And that is about 100 calories.”

Serving size should be used as a general guide when preparing food. For mixed foods, do the best you can to estimate the food group servings of the main ingredients.

Eating too much of even low-fat foods can still pack on pounds. Watch what and how much you are eating. Decreasing your food intake to the recommended daily servings should help you lose pounds and maintain a healthy weight.


Portion control sign photo by Gustavo Frazao/shutterstock.com

Plate image by Jacek Chabraszewski/shutterstock.com


About Donna Reynolds