Choosing the right amount of food

Tips to help create appropriate food portions by using visual cues and understanding serving size.

The type of food that we eat is not the only thing that contributes to unhealthy eating habits. The portions or amount of food we eat also plays a role. Using visual cues can help us decide what enough food is and what is too much. My Plate is a great visual tool you can use to help you choose better portions and eat a variety of food from each food group.

Over the past 40-50 years, our portion sizes have increased dramatically whether it is a homemade meal, eating out, or prepackaged meals. A great approach to help you work out the right amount of food to eat and the nutritional value of what you’re eating is reading the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients list.

It is also important to be aware that many packaged food items list the number of servings in a misleading way. The front of the package may describe the contents as a single serving but when you turn it around it states on the Nutrition Facts label that it contains more than one serving. This is because both the food packaging and the “Serving Size” listed on the Nutrition Facts label are determined by the manufacturer. Keep this in mind when choosing your portions and if you’re trying to work out nutritional value.

A portion of food is the amount of food we choose to eat at one time and is completely under our control. Serving size, as listed on the Nutrition Facts label is what the manufacturer suggests a portion should be. Again, try using visual cues can help us work out what the right amount of food is.

My Plate has some great information about the recommended daily intake of food from each food group and what a single serving would be. Examples of a single serving include:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • ½ cup of rice or pasta
  • 1 cup of yogurt/milk
  • 2oz. cheese (about the size of a domino)
  • 2-3 oz. of meat, poultry or fish (this is about the size of a deck of cards)
  • 1 cup of cooked or raw vegetables about the size of a baseball
  • ¼ a cup of nuts, similar to the size of a golf ball.

You can also find more information and examples on the MyPlate website.

When watching what we are eating to make better nutritional choices, it may be helpful to write down what you are eating each day. This way you can look back through your food diary to see where you can improve and pat yourself on the back when you are consistent with choosing nutritious meals and snacks.

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