Your guide to keeping portion distortion in check
By: Maureen Bligh, MA, RDN
With restaurants offering enormous plates of food, extra-large drink cups and snacks sold in king-size packages, knowing how much to eat can be hard. It's difficult to avoid eating more at home, too. Dinner plate, muffin tin and pizza pan sizes have grown. Cars even have larger cup holders to accommodate bigger drink sizes.
As everything gets bigger, it becomes the norm, distorting how people think about a serving size or the “right” amount. One study found that modern portion sizes of popular foods added an extra 50 to 150 calories. While that might not sound like much, an extra 100 calories per day can add up over the course of a year.
Some meals appearing “average” in size can equal a whole day’s calories. A large order of french fries can contain as many as 1,000 calories. Adding a hamburger and an extra-large soft drink totals more than 2,000 calories in one sitting.
And this isn't unusual. A study published in 2012 found that 96% of restaurant meals exceed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendations for fat, salt and overall calories.
|Food or beverage||1980s (calories)||2000s (calories)|
|Slice of pizza||500||850|
The Test Your Knowledge on Portion Sizes handout provides more useful information on the growth in portion sizes over the years.
With a little forethought and planning, it is possible to keep portion sizes under control. Below are some tips on how to estimate proper portion sizes and keep portions in check even when faced with big plates of food:
Practicing portion control allows for freedom from guilt about eating favorite foods, as all foods, in moderation, can fit into a healthy eating pattern.
Master the concept of serving sizes for foods from all five food groups using hand symbols as a comparison and learn how many servings from each food group is needed daily to support good health in the video below.
Let’s Eat Healthy Nutrition Lessons, an educational video series, teaches students about nutrition and how to eat healthfully. Tune in and subscribe to the HealthyEating channel on YouTube to watch the whole series for fourth and fifth grade students.
Are you looking for print or digital downloadable educational resources that teach healthy portion sizes to children? These featured resources teach healthy portion sizes to children in fourth grade through high school.
Maureen Bligh, MA, RDN
Maureen Bligh, MA, RDN
Maureen is the program director of marketing and communications and a practicing registered dietitian nutritionist with over 35 years of experience.
Comprehensive + versatile, the Let’s Eat Healthy video series supports educators in teaching nutrition education in synchronous/asynchronous learning.
Watch the latest episode of Ask A Nutritionist and discover how to plan healthy and nutritious meals for your family.