Right-Size Your Portions
Who decides how much you will eat? You do! Here are some tips to right-size your portions.
- Start with the standard serving size. What does that mean? See below for more information on standard serving sizes, which are typically smaller than portion sizes. Then, eat slowly and pay attention to what you’re eating. When you are done, pause 5 minutes to see if you’re still hungry. If you are, take another serving.
- Use smaller plates, bowls, and glasses. You’ll feel less hungry after eating from a small plate that’s full of food than after eating from a large plate half full of food, even if it’s the same amount of food!
- Right-size your portions when eating out. Did you know that portion sizes at restaurants are often two to four times bigger than standard serving sizes? Here are some tips to right-sizing your portions:
Order the small instead of large or medium.
Share your entrée or order a half portion.
Ask for a to-go box right away and put half the meal away.
- Stay away from the bag. Have you ever snacked on chips or nuts straight from the bag? This is a common way people eat an oversized portion. To right-size your snack, use the chart below to visualize an ounce of chips or nuts and put it in a small bowl. Put away the bag. Then, eat your snack one piece at a time. By removing the snack bag from sight and eating slowly, you are more likely to eat a right-sized portion.
Digging Deeper into Portion Control
What is a portion?
A portion is the amount of food that you decide to eat. There is no one right or wrong portion size. However, portion sizes have gotten bigger over the years, in restaurants, grocery stores, and even our homes.
Why do portion sizes matter? The bigger a portion is, the more we eat of it and the more calories it has. Eating portions that are too big can lead to feeling “stuffed” and eventually, weight gain.
What Is a Standard Serving Size?
Get familiar with standard serving sizes. A serving is a standard amount of food, measured in cups, grams, ounces, and other units. The nutrition facts panel can tell you a food's serving size, calorie value, and nutrient content.
Need information on reading labels? Take our free The Nutrition Facts Panel Online Course: A Guide to Wise Food Choices.
No Measuring Cups? No Problem!
Once you know what a serving size is, it's important to know what a single serving looks like. You can measure servings using everyday objects or your hands:
|Size of one serving||Looks like...|
|1 c. raw vegetables or fruits||Baseball or fist|
|1 medium piece of fruit||Small computer mouse or rounded handful|
|½ c. pasta or rice||Small computer mouse or rounded handful|
|½ c. ice cream||Tennis ball or rounded handful|
|3 oz. meat or poultry||Deck of cards or palm|
|1 oz. chips or pretzels||Baseball or two handfuls|
|1 c. dried cereal||Baseball or two handfuls|
|¼ c. dried fruit or nuts||Large egg or handful|
|2 tbsp. peanut butter or salad dressing||Ping pong ball or thumb|
|1 oz. cheese||Ping pong ball or thumb|
|1 tsp butter, oil, or sugar||One die or thumb tip|
Right-Size Your Portions Today!
Pick one of the goals below and give it a try at your next meal or snack:
- I will measure out a standard serving of a food I usually eat a lot of.
- I will eat one meal using a small plate or bowl.
- I will take out one serving of a snack and put the rest away before I start eating.
- I will order a small serving of a food or beverage instead of a large one.
These small steps will help curb calories and keep your weight on the right track.
Other Recommended Resources
The Nutrition Facts Panel Online Course: A Guide to Wise Food Choices — Short, free online course on how to read and utilize nutrition facts labels. Are you in the MFIP/TANF program? This course counts as one hour of a Core TANF activity for Life Skills Training.
Serving Size for Whole Grain Products (161 K PDF) — Examples of serving sizes for different whole grain foods.
Portion Distortion! — National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute — An interactive quiz on how today’s portions compare to portions 20 years ago.
The Secret to Serving Sizes is in Your Hand — eXtension — A guide to using your hand to estimate serving sizes.
Eat Smart Move More North Carolina — Two helpful handouts on right-sizing portions:
- 12 Smart Ways to Right-Size Your Portions
- Right-Size Your Portions: School-Age Children and Youth-Trends, Effects, Solutions
Calories Count — Learn to navigate between nutrient-rich and calorie-rich foods.