Portions & Serving Sizes

Seniors sitting around a dinner table

Understanding how much you should be eating is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight. In restaurants or at home, we are tempted to clean our plates, no matter how full we might be. However, paying attention to the amount you are eating and knowing the difference between serving sizes and portion sizes will help you eat healthier quantities of food.

According to the National Institutes of Health:

  • portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time, whether in a restaurant, from a package or in your own kitchen.
  • serving size is the amount of food listed on a product's Nutrition Facts.

Sometimes, the portion size and serving size match; sometimes they do not. Keep in mind that the serving size on the Nutrition Facts is not a recommended amount of food to eat. It is a quick way of letting you know the calories and nutrients in a certain amount of food.

FDA Nutrition Facts

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Nutrition Facts are printed on most packaged foods and tell you how many calories and how much fat, carbohydrate, sodium and other nutrients are in one serving of that food. Most packaged foods contain more than a single serving. To see how many servings a package has, check the "servings per container" listed in its Nutrition Facts. You may be surprised to find that small containers often have more than one serving inside.

Size Matters!

Learning to recognize standard serving sizes can help you judge how much you are eating. When cooking at home, look at the serving sizes listed on the Nutrition Facts for the packaged food products you eat. Use measuring cups and spoons to put the suggested serving size on your plate before you start eating. This will help you see what one standard serving of that food looks like compared to how much you normally eat and adjust your serving sizes accordingly.

Calcium & Vitamin D

At any age, you can take steps to keep your bones strong. Incorporating an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D into your diet is a good place to start. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Exposure to sunlight causes your body to make vitamin D. Eating foods with calcium and vitamin D and taking supplements is good for your bones.