Serving Size vs. Portion Size: What's the Difference?

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Find out the difference between serving sizes and portions sizes. Choosing nutritious foods and keeping portion sizes sensible will help keep your family at a healthy weight.

One of the best ways you can help your child live healthy and maintain a healthy weight is to teach them what an actual serving size looks like. They can use this knowledge to make healthier choices when eating at school, having snacks or even choosing from a fast food menu.

Research shows that Americans are eating larger and larger portions. For example, twenty years ago a bagel was about 3 inches in diameter and 140 calories. Today's bagels are about 6 inches in diameter, 350 calories and may count up to three or even four servings in the grains group. Let's also compare a soda twenty years ago that was about 6.5 ounces and 85 calories. Today, an average soda is 20 ounces and can have 300 or more calories.

Serving sizes are often smaller than people think. In fact Americans under-estimate the calories they consume each day by an average of 25 percent. A recent poll revealed that 70% of us felt the amount of food that we eat at home and the amount we are served at restaurants is considered a "normal" serving size. People are unaware that the portion sizes have increased over the years. In fact, the standard size plate used in restaurants has increased from 10 1/2 inches to 12 inches.

Servings and portions... What's the difference?

Serving sizes are defined by the USDA Food Guide Pyramid as a standard amount used to help give advice about how much food to eat. It also helps us identify how many calories and nutrients are in a food. A portion is the amount of food that you choose to eat. There is no standard portion size and no single right or wrong portion size. However, knowing the size of a serving can help your child determine healthful portions. Let's look at some examples: