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Portions and Servings: What's the Difference?

Portions and Servings:
What's the Difference?

How many servings are there in a taco?
What size portions are right for me?
Test your measuring skills
What are some ways to avoid overeating?

Say it's taco night and you have two taco shells stuffed with spicy meat, shredded carrots, lettuce, and salsa on your plate. That's one portion, or helping. In other words, a portion is the amount of food you choose to put on your plate, no matter how big or how small. But a serving is a specific size that can help you build a healthy meal. For example, a single serving of chopped vegetables, like carrots and lettuce, is one cup. MyPyramid shows you about how many servings you need from each food group. When you think in terms of servings instead of portions, you're making healthy food choices. back to top

How many servings are there in a taco?
Each taco is wrapped in a six-inch corn tortilla. If you eat two tacos, you are getting two servings from the grains, breads, cereals, and rice food group. Stuff about one ounce of lean meat or 1/2 cup of cooked beans into each taco, and you've got one serving of protein. And the cup of shredded carrots, lettuce, and salsa you split between the tacos is one vegetable serving. If you're using prepared taco shells, check the food label on the box. Between the taco shells and the fat in the meat, you'll probably find you've got a serving from the fat group as well. back to top

What size portions are right for me?
Most people eat more servings than they realize. This is called the eye–mouth gap because the amount you put in your mouth is more than what it appears to be to your eye. Maybe that's why some girls panic when they see that the Food Guide Pyramid suggests nine servings of grains, breads, cereals, and rice every day. So forget about portion size and think servings. If you had a soy shake with fruit for breakfast and a sloppy joe for lunch, you'll want to choose more vegetables and grains at dinner. It's that easy. back to top

Test your measuring skills
Cook some rice and then find a half-cup measuring cup, a serving spoon, and two plates. Now follow these steps to test the eye–mouth gap theory:
  1. On the first plate dish up what looks like the amount of cooked rice you'd eat for dinner.
  2. Guess how many servings are on the plate.
  3. Now fill your measuring cup with rice.
  4. Empty the rice in the measuring cup onto the second plate.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the pile of rice on the second plate is the same size as the pile on the first plate.
How many times did you fill that 1/2 cup? That's the actual number of servings you dished up. Unless you're on a special diet, you don't need to measure your food. Just do it a few times with each food group so you learn to recognize the size of a serving. back to top

What are some ways to avoid overeating?
If you find you eat more servings than the Food Guide Pyramid recommends once in awhile, that's no big deal. Most girls splurge from time to time. If you find yourself eating more calories than your body can burn, here are some tips to avoid overeating:
  • When eating at home, serve yourself from the kitchen instead of putting the serving dishes on the table. Even if you're no longer hungry, you're more likely to reach for a second helping when the food is right in front of you.
  • Whether you're eating at home, at a friend's house, or at a restaurant, don't feel you have to clean your plate. Eat the amount that is right for you.
  • When it's time for a snack, decide how many pretzels or pineapple chunks you want, and then put them in a dish. If you snack right out of a bag of chips or that box of yogurt-covered cherries, you're likely to eat more than you planned to. back to top
Last Modified Date: 12/7/2000
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