When I first started teaching nutrition education, one of my favorite sayings was be wise about portion size. It rhymes, it’s catchy, and it’s true! When we are wise about portion size, we can better fuel our bodies in they way they need to be fueled. It is important to note the difference between a serving size and a portion size. A serving size is a standardized amount of food, like the recommendations from MyPlate. A portion size is the amount of food you choose to eat. The amount you choose to eat may be more or less than a serving size. The key to success is learning how to balance the two.
Based on a 2000 calorie diet, MyPlate recommends the following servings from each food group.
You can find your specific calorie and serving recommendations by clicking here.
Let’s work through an example. Think about the last time you sat down for a nice spaghetti dinner. What did you plate look like? As you can see above, a 1-ounce equivalent from the grains group is ½ cup cooked pasta. That’s not very much pasta. I think it’s safe to say that most of us eat more than ½ cup of pasta at a time. Is it okay to me more than ½ cup at a time? Sure! This is where finding the balance between a serving size and a portion size comes in. Let’s say you fill your plate ½ of the way full with pasta. That’s a portion size of about 2 cups of pasta, or 4 servings from the grains group. No problem! You’re still under the 6-ounce recommendations, but don’t forget about the garlic bread. A slice of garlic bread is another 1-ounce serving from the grains group. You’re still under the 6-ounce recommendation, but what did you eat earlier in the day? Did you have toast or cereal for breakfast? What about a sandwich or crackers for lunch? Do you see how easy it is for your portion size to put your over the serving size recommendation?
Understanding what the serving size recommendations are and balancing those with the portions you serve is how you become wise about portion size. Let’s look at another example. Think about the last time you went to your favorite restaurant? What did you order? My favorite restaurant meal almost always comes with a side of chips and salsa. According to MyPlate, a serving size of chips would be the equivalent to 1 tortilla, or 6-8 chips. Do you think I only ate 6-8 chips? No way! It’s likely that I tripled or quadrupled my portion. Does this mean we can’t enjoy our favorite things? Certainly not. It’s all about finding balance. As long as you are aware of and doing your best to be wise about portion size, an indulgence here and there is okay.
Take a little time to learn MyPlate recommendations specific to you. This will start you on the right track as you set out to create better health during the new year. When you need a delicious and nutritious recipe for dinner, try Beef and Noodle Soup.
This recipe has protein, grains, veggies, and dairy. Serve it with a side of fruit or a green salad for even more servings of veggies. Enjoy!