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Nutrition Basics

Portion Control

Portion sizes have gotten larger over time. This trend can be seen in most restaurants, grocery stores and vending machines. Research shows that people unintentionally consume more calories when given larger portions.

Do you know how food portions have changed over the years? Take the Portion Distortion Quiz external link on the National Institutes of Health's website to learn more.

portion control

What does a serving look like?

How will you know a reasonable portion of food when you see it? Visualize the objects below when eating out, planning a meal or grabbing a snack.

  • Vegetables or fruit = a handful
  • Pasta = a scoop of ice cream
  • Meat, fish or poultry = a deck of cards
  • Snacks such as pretzels or chips = a cupped hand
  • Potato = a computer mouse
  • Bagel = half an English muffin
  • Pancake = a CD
  • Cheese = a pair of dice or the size of your whole thumb (from the tip to the base)
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter = a ping pong ball

Tips to Keep Portions Under Control

  • Less is more: Use a smaller plate at meals and don’t go back for seconds.
  • Table tip: Don't keep platters of food on the table as you are more likely to "pick" at it or have a second serving.
  • Split it: Share an entrée with a friend; ask for half or smaller portions when eating out; immediately put half of your entrée into a to go box; or order an appetizer for your meal.
  • Don't eat from the bag: When snacking, place a few chips, crackers or cookies in a bowl to help prevent overeating.
  • Stop eating when you begin to feel full: Sit down and enjoy your meal. Chew slowly and pay attention to textures and flavors. When you are full, stop eating and enjoy the setting with your friends or family for the rest of the meal.
  • Size matters: Download the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Serving Size Card, external link to help you remember what normal serving sizes look like.


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