Serving Size vs. Portion Size: What’s the Difference?

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition
oats in a measuring cup

They both speak to, well, size, but the difference can be pretty significant: A serving is the recommended amount of a particular food (listed on the label in packaged products); portion is how much you actually choose to eat in one sitting—and that amount may be less than the suggested serving size, or much (much) more.

Think about the last time you ordered spaghetti from your favorite Italian restaurant: A serving of cooked pasta is one half cup, or about the size of half a baseball. If you wiped that heaping bowl clean, your portion likely doubled, maybe even quadrupled, the recommended serving size. Nuts are also super easy to overeat—Nutrisystem recommends a half-ounce serving, or about seven walnut halves. Sit in front of the TV with a tin of nuts in your lap, and the chances of you stopping at seven are slim. More serving sizes that may surprise you: Bread, one slice (not two)—the same goes for cheese; meat, two ounces (smaller than a deck of cards); peanut butter, one tablespoon (or a poker chip); and heart-healthy avocado, one eighth of a slice.

To help keep your food portions in check, always eat from a plate, not straight from a package; the same idea applies to meals you make—dish out proper portions, and then put leftovers away. When eating out, order a half-size or split a meal; and at home, turn off the TV and put the phone away—research has shown distracted eaters are more likely to eat more.

Want to know how to stop eating SO much? We’ve got you covered right here.