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Every little thing You Have to Learn about Serving Sizes

serving size

1/2 cup of cooked pasta.

3/4 cup of ice cream.

3 Oreo cookies.

1/2 cup broccoli.

Serving sizes are ingrained into a whole lot of us, and for a few of us, they proceed to be the ‘guidelines’ we observe once we eat. 

However is serving measurement really the quantity we must be consuming? Who created this metric, and why? How are serving sizes for various meals decided? 

And most significantly, how can serving sizes impression our consuming, meals selections, and relationship with meals?

I’ve acquired all of the solutions!

First off, let’s discuss serving measurement versus portion measurement.

The phrases ‘serving measurement’ and ‘portion measurement’ are sometimes used interchangeably, however they aren’t the identical.

Serving measurement is the quantity of that meals {that a} Diet Information label tells us is ‘advisable.’ It’s decided by the FDA and USDA in keeping with the quantity of that meals that’s ‘sometimes’ consumed. 

I’m unsure who really consumes 13 potato chips, however right here we’re.

Serving measurement isn’t a rule, and it wasn’t developed with any particular science behind it. 

The US diet details label was up to date in 2016 to replicate the bigger serving sizes which have developed through the years (before then, the information used in creating serving sizes was from the 1970s and 1980s).

Portion measurement is the quantity of meals you really eat.

So in keeping with the Diet Information label, a bag of almonds would possibly comprise 4 servings of 23 almonds every. However your portion measurement would possibly find yourself being 27 almonds, which is greater than a serving. Or, 11 almonds, which is much less. 

And that’s okay!

Do I need you to eat a whole bag of almonds? No.

However I additionally don’t suppose it’s worthwhile to micromanage what you eat by following serving measurement like a hawk and measuring out your meals.

For those who’ve learn my guide, you’ll discover that I don’t get all prescriptive with portion sizes. I give tips, however general, I go away you all the liberty you wish to eat what you wish to eat, in parts that give you the results you want.

Some days, you’ll need extra. Some days, you’ll need much less.

Whereas I consider in understanding the relative diet details of meals – this protein meals is sweet for satiety, this greens combine is filling and nutritious, and that pasta is satisfying and offers me power – I don’t actually consider in serving sizes having the final phrase in how a lot of a meals we eat.

We’re going to speak about why, however first, the positives.

The great.

Serving sizes aren’t all dangerous. They are often useful, when used with the Diet Information label, in figuring out if we’re getting sufficient of a sure nutrient, like calcium, protein, or vitamin D, for instance. However when you eat a various food regimen, you shouldn’t should rely servings.

Some individuals would possibly consider that serving sizes on multiple-serving packages that look single serve, akin to bottles of Coke and snack-sized baggage of Doritos, may be useful.

If a serving of Doritos is definitely 1/3 of the bag, that’s good info to have when you’re counting energy.

However I take a look at serving sizes on meals packages the identical manner I take a look at the calorie values: they’re a quantity that doesn’t typically serve us in our on a regular basis life. 

For one, it’s simple to take them out of context. 

(Read why I don’t recommend calorie counting.)

Extremely-processed meals ought to seem in your food regimen as little as attainable. Does figuring out that that bag of Doritos has three servings, change how a lot of them an individual eats?

It’d, however predictably, the analysis isn’t all that conclusive. Some research recommend that people eat less of a food when it has a larger serving size, however other studies suggest the opposite (and here). It might have one thing to do with the kind of meals they checked out (sweet versus ‘core’ meals).

Regardless, serving sizes can affect the way in which we really feel in regards to the well being advantages of a meals.

Analysis has persistently discovered that customers are likely to understand a meals as much less wholesome when serving sizes are bigger. 

One of many above research took the very same meals, manipulated the Diet Information label to double the serving measurement from 2oz to 4oz. After all, the energy and all the pieces else on the Label doubled as effectively.

Seeing the bigger 4oz serving measurement and better nutrient ranges led individuals to consider that the meals was much less wholesome than when it was labelled with the 2oz numbers.

Identical meals. Completely different label.

That examine discovered that “bigger serving sizes might impression shoppers’ estimate of energy and improve consumption guilt… smaller serving sizes generate much less guilt and higher consumption.”


I feel it’s secure to say that so far as most of us go, I feel we have to get out of our personal manner relating to serving sizes.

Right here’s why.

Serving sizes can foster a mistrust in your physique.

For those who’ve been on manner too many diets, it’s most likely second nature to you to measure out precisely 3/4 cup of cereal. Chances are you’ll not have the ability to stand the considered free-pouring meals that by accident is likely to be too many energy. The necessity to maintain all of it in verify, and in management. To know precisely what you’re consuming, as a result of when you don’t measure your meals, you may want extra, and also you would possibly eat an excessive amount of. 

The serving measurement is a tough cease…till it isn’t. 

In actual fact, I feel individuals eat extra once they measure issues out in keeping with serving measurement, as a result of serving measurement is simply one other ‘rule’ they pressure themselves to observe. 

And as , guidelines round meals and consuming hardly ever finish effectively. We all the time need extra meals than the serving sizes ‘enable’ us to have. 

I can’t consider any meals rule that’s really legitimate. Most of them are designed by the food regimen business to whip us into submission and maintain us there. And naturally, we find yourself rebelling in opposition to them, then find yourself feeling even worse about ourselves.

You don’t have to do this. You’ll be simply advantageous with out measuring all the pieces. Really, you’ll most likely be higher off.

They’ll trigger a disconnect between your starvation and your meals consumption.

This may occur in a few methods, a few of which you won’t even understand.

Say you wish to eat some crackers.

You notice that the serving measurement is 10 crackers, so that you portion out 10 crackers. You actually solely need 8 crackers, however the serving measurement says 10, so you are feeling compelled to eat 10. You weren’t hungry for 10, however you suppose, ‘I’d as effectively.’

As a substitute of listening to the way you’re feeling, your focus in solely on the serving measurement. The result’s that you simply eat greater than you in any other case would have.

By the identical token, when you’re consuming those self same crackers and are actually hungry and don’t wish to cease at 10, consuming extra may cause guilt and disgrace for going over the serving measurement. 

One other manner serving sizes may cause a disconnect is with our meals selections.

This occurs not solely with serving sizes, but in addition energy, carbs, and just about something that’s on the diet label. 

You would possibly see two meals with comparable energy, however one has a bigger serving measurement. Although you may want the opposite meals extra, you select the one that provides you a bigger quantity of meals, as a result of it looks like a ‘whole lot.’

Even when you didn’t actually need that meals, you persuade your self that you simply made the correct alternative.

However did you actually?

For those who’re selecting meals based mostly on a food regimen mindset of following the numbers, and never which meals you wish to eat and the way they make you are feeling, you would possibly find yourself much less glad with what you’re consuming. 

serving size

Serving sizes are arbitrary. 

Serving sizes do not know who you might be, what you want by way of diet. In actual fact, they aren’t speculated to be something greater than a suggestion. 

Why ought to the serving measurement be the identical for me and my 13 yr previous? 

Similar to the labels within the examine had been we speaking about firstly of this publish, serving sizes may be manipulated by recipe builders and meals firms to make sure meals seem ‘more healthy.’ 

What number of occasions have you ever made a ‘wholesome’ dish from a recipe, and when it was finished, you realized that the explanation why the energy and different values had been so low, was as a result of the serving measurement was tiny? That’s a part of the explanation why I hardly ever even take a look at ‘wholesome’ consuming and cooking magazines. 

It’s sufficient to make your head spin. 

Right here’s tips on how to handle consuming with out utilizing serving sizes.

Know what a balanced food regimen seems to be like.

That is your start line. 

It’s not particular person meals that we must be specializing in, quite, it’s our total food regimen.

As a substitute of letting the serving sizes on meals packages dictate how a lot of one thing you eat, attempt to perceive what a balanced food regimen seems to be like general.

Plenty of crops. Excessive-quality proteins, and a handful of carbs. Selecting what’s bodily AND emotionally nourishing to you. 

Eat as many entire and minimally processed meals as you possibly can.

Don’t take note of individuals who offer you ‘guidelines.’ These food regimen ‘gurus’ who let you know {that a} snack is 10 almonds or 1/2 cup of grapes? 

Tune them out. Who eats 10 almonds? Ugh.

You don’t want any extra guidelines in your life. Until you will have a selected cause – like diabetes, for instance – why it’s worthwhile to measure out parts or use serving sizes.

Nothing dangerous goes to occur to you when you eat 12 almonds, or when you don’t rely out every bit of meals that you simply put into your mouth.

You’ll be free. That’s a very good factor. Getting there’s a course of, but it surely’s effectively value it.

Eat mindfully.

Attempt to reduce distractions whilst you eat, and use the starvation and fullness scale that will help you tune in to how your physique feels. 

Shift your focus to how meals make you are feeling, not what number of crackers you possibly can eat with out feeling responsible. Eat what you’re keen on, what makes you are feeling nourished. 

Know that you need to use the time you waste obsessing about serving measurement and counting out your blueberries, for issues that make you content. You deserve that.


My guide Good Meals, Unhealthy Food plan, helps you get away from the food regimen mindset. Buy it here. 

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