Get the skinny on right-sizing your food choices


Over time, portion sizes have increased—from “super-size” meals and “all-you-can-eat” offerings to larger individual food items like bagels, pizzas, and sodas—yet guidelines for recommended portion sizes have remained the same.

With so many larger portion sizes available, it can be hard to stick to the right portion size that aligns with your target daily intake of food. Here are five tips to help you work toward enjoying healthy portion sizes:

  1. Package size can be misleading.
    There are often several servings in packaged foods, so start by paying attention to food labels. Does that bottle of milk from the convenience store contain three recommended servings? Should that container of nuts be able to provide a week’s worth of snacks?  When you buy a package of food that contains multiple portions, consider dividing each portion into smaller containers or baggies right away, so that recommended servings are ready to go when it’s time to eat.
  2. Recognizing recommended serving size takes practice.
    A balanced diet includes a mix of grains, veggies, fruits, dairy and protein—and the amount you eat from each category depends on how many calories are in your target diet. To better understand what five ounces of daily protein looks like, you might need some practice measuring and getting a visual sense for your ideal portion sizes. Aside from using a scale and measuring cups, here are a few examples to help you get started:
    • The palm of your hand is about the same size as a three-ounce portion of meat, poultry or fish
    • Your fist is about the same size as one cup of raw veggies or chopped fruit
    • An egg is about the same size as a quarter-cup of dried fruit
    • A baseball is about the same size as two-thirds of a cup of yogurt
    • A pair of dice is about the same size as one ounce of cheese
    • A computer mouse is about the same size as a three-ounce potato
  3. Don’t forget about the size of your bowls, glasses and plates.
    Along with portion sizes, serving plates have increased in size, too—especially in restaurants. A healthy portion of food might look like just a little food on a large plate, and might trick you into thinking you’re not getting enough to eat. To help keep your mind and stomach in sync, use plates, bowls and glasses that are closer in size to the portion you are eating.
  4. Keep serving dishes off the table.
    There is some truth to the old saying, “out of sight, out of mind.” Rather than providing easy access to seconds (or thirds), serve food away from the dinner table, plating healthy portion sizes. If you have to get up and get more food from the table, you’re more likely to think twice about whether or not you really need more.
  5. Healthy snacks can stave off the temptation of an oversized meal.
    If a hunger pang strikes between meals, satisfy your appetite with a good-for-you snack to help ensure you don’t overeat at mealtime. Try out some creative ideas for noshing throughout the day: