Healthy eating includes making healthful food choices, which means knowing what and how much you eat. Picture in your mind what a plate of spaghetti looks like. That is a portion. You decided how much you put on your plate. According to the dietary guidelines, a serving of cooked pasta is a half-cup. Picture that plate again… is there just a half-cup of spaghetti on your plate?
A “portion” is the amount of a food you choose to eat at any one time. Portions can be bigger or smaller than a serving. A “serving” is a unit of measure for the amount of food recommended that you consume. A serving can be things like one slice of bread or 1/2 cup of pasta.
By reading the Nutrition Facts panel, you can compare different food products, make wise choices, and get an idea of what and how much you are consuming.
I know sometimes you look at a label and it is difficult to understand exactly what everything means. I hope this information makes it a little more clear.
Nutrition Facts Label
The following are items listed on a Nutrition Facts Panel:
- Amount of food in a serving
- Total number of servings in the container
Amount Per Serving (what you get when you consume 1 serving)
- Number of calories per serving
- Number of calories from fat per serving
Percent Daily Value
- Amount per serving, expressed as percentage and based on 2,000 calorie diet
- Listed in order by weight, from most to least
Once you know how to read a food label it maybe a little easier to understand how much is in a serving. Definitely, take your time when shopping and compare like products. Chose products low in fat and sugar. Foods that list whole grains as first ingredient are a better choices. Pick fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat dairy more often.
Serving Sizes: Visual Aid
Often serving sizes are estimated using objects such as a golf ball, tennis ball, or yoyo. Well, I haven’t touched those things in quite a while so, I’m not quite sure how big or small they are. I like to use my hand as a measure. Thankfully my hand is always with me so, it is a great reference 🙂
The average portion size has grown to over the years. Often the portions served at restaurants are enough to feed several people! Even when cooking at home it is difficult to know what is a proper portion.
To overcome portion distortion and to downsize your helpings, try these tips:
- Eat from a plate, not a package, so you know how much you eat.
- Use smaller dishes, such as a lunch plate for your dinner, so less looks like more on your plate.
- Serve your food in the kitchen and leave extras in the kitchen to avoid seconds or thirds
- Look up restaurant you are going to and check the number of servings in their portion. Take leftovers home.
Always be aware of portion sizes. Even low-calorie foods can add up when portions are larger than you need.
When you sit down to dinner your plate should look similar to the “MyPlate” graphic. Half of your plate should be vegetables and fruit.