Understanding Serving Sizes 

When reading a food’s nutritional label, the “serving size” indicates the amount of food for which the nutrition information is shown. For example, for a loaf of bread, the serving size is most often “one slice” and the number of calories, fat, carbs and proteins listed are for that ONE slice of bread. If you eat more than one, you must multiply the nutritional values by the number you actually consume. Serving size doesn’t necessarily mean the amount you should consume, that depends on hunger, activity level, health needs and personal preference.

While nutritional labels provide excellent, detailed and useful information, if you don’t pay attention to the serving size, you may be eating many more calories than you realize. Consider your favorite cookies, the serving size may be a single cookie which may contain as many as 100 calories. But how often do you eat ONE cookie? Two cookies equal 200 calories and six cookies contain 600 calories, about one-third of the calories you should be eating. There may even be big letters on the front of the package proclaiming “only 100 calories per serving!” Technically true, but you now understand the need to adjust serving size by what you actually consume.

When discussing food intake or diet, or specific types of diets, serving size often refers to the recommended amount you consume. As an example, “you should include three servings of fruit each day.” In this scenario, a “serving” is the amount of food that experts recommend you eat – the recommended “portion” of food to be eaten.

Portion and serving size are often used interchangeably, but to be nutritionally accurate, a “portion” is the amount of food that you choose to eat, be it big or small. A “serving” is a measured amount of food or drink, such as that one slice of bread. Many foods that come as a single portion actually contain multiple servings, a single sandwich for example, contains two servings of bread.

How You Can Use Serving Size To Eat More Healthy 

First, start reading labels. You may be shocked at how many servings (and calories) you actually eat. It is easy to overeat when you pour cereal into your bowl, or spread peanut butter on your bagel. Learn to recognize a single serving size of the foods you regularly eat and begin calculating how many servings you actually eat. Use this information to then calculate and plan your portion sizes and make the necessary adjustments to fall within desired calorie goals.

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