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Food Portion Awareness
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Knowing Standard Serving Sizes Helps Control Calories

Portion sizes have increased markedly for many foods in recent years. Food descriptors such as "Super-size, King-size, Jumbo, Value Meal" are widely present in the contemporary marketplace in the U.S. These food products are higher in calories. Research has shown that when people are served larger portions, they eat more calories, and the average calorie consumption of American women has increased from 1542 to 1886 calories per day since 1971. Implicit to weight control is calorie control. 

The following recommendations for number of daily servings and serving sizes from the different food groups have been made by the USDA and the American Heart Association: 

Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta Group
(6-11 servings/day)  

1 slice bread, ½ bagel (Lender's size)
1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal
½ cup cooked cereal, rice, pasta 
1, 6" pancake or waffle 

Vegetable Group 
(3-5 servings/day)

½ cup cooked vegetables
1 cup leafy green salad
¾ cup vegetable juice 

Fruit Group 
(2-4 servings/day)

1 medium apple, banana, orange
½ cup chopped or canned fruit 
¾ cup fruit juice 

Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group 
(2-3 servings/day)

1 cup milk or yogurt 
1 ½ oz cheese 

Meat , Dry Beans, Eggs & Nuts Group 
(2-3 servings/day)

2-3 oz lean cooked meat 
2 Tbsp peanut butter
½ cup beans 1 egg or 2 egg whites 
½ cup tofu 

Fats, Oils and Sweets Group 
(use sparingly)

both naturally occurring and added  

To visualize portions sizes use these familiar images as mental measuring cups and spoon:

• The palm of a woman's hand is about 4 ounces and the palm of a man's hand is about 6 to 8 ounces. 
• Your thumb equals about 1 tablespoon. 
• A computer mouse or a deck of cards is about the size of 3-4 ounces of meat. 
• A baseball or tennis ball equals about 1 cup. 
• A woman's fist is equal to about 1 cup of food. 

Visualizing the amount of food on your plate before you eat it will help you control portion sizes. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has a Portion Distortion Quiz - a fun and educational resource to learn more about how serving sizes have changed. This mini-quiz provides interesting information about the amount of physical activity needed to burn off the extra calories from larger portion sizes. You will be amazed to see how much portion sizes have increased.   

Source: Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Anne Quinn Corr, and Valerie Fishell. The Pennsylvania State University
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