Portion Distortion

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December 20, 2012 by thehealthyheartcenter

Over-eating is one of the biggest problems in today’s society, whether it may be serving larger portions, or simply mindless eating leading to excessive servings. It is an unhealthy behavior that not only can lead to weight gain, but also serious health conditions. It’s first important to understand the difference between the two:

  • Serving Size: A serving is a specific amount of food or drink that is defined by measurements (cups/ounces/tablespoons). The serving size on the Nutrition Facts Panel is considered the recommended serving, and is the basis for all other nutrition information on the label.
  • Portion Size: A portion is the amount of food that ends up on the plate. Think of this as the actual amount of food you choose to eat at all meals and snacks. Portions can be bigger or smaller than the recommended serving size.


One effective and relatable way to explain portions to children is to compare them to visualize objects that are familiar and easy to recognize. Before they eat or drink something, they can think of the relevant object and choose a portion that matches its size.

Food                                   Portion Size                  Is About the Size of….


Bread                                1 oz. or 1 regular slice                      CD cover

Dry cereal                                1 oz. or 1 cup                            Baseball

Cooked cereal/rice/pasta           1 oz. or 1/2 cup                       1/2 baseball

Pancake/waffle                     1 oz. or 1 small (6 in.)                          CD

Bagel/hamburger bun              1 oz. or 1/2 piece                      Hockey puck

Cornbread                                     1 piece                              Bar of soap


Orange,apple,pear             1 small (2 1/2 in. diameter)                Tennis ball

Raisins                                           1/4 cup                               Golf ball


Baked potato                                1 medium                        Computer mouse

Vegetables, chopped/salad                1 cup                                 Golf ball


Fat-free/low-fat milk/yogurt               1 cup                                 Baseball

Cheese                         1 1/2 oz. natural, 2 oz. processed         Matchbox car

Ice cream                                        1/2 cup                            1/2 baseball


Lean beef/poultry                              3 oz.                               Deck of cards

Grilled/baked fish                              3 oz.                               Small envelope   

Peanut butter                             2 tablespoons                         Ping-pong ball


Tub of margarine                          1 teaspoon                           Postage stamp

Oil/salad dressing                          1 teaspoon                   16-oz water bottle cap


For additional information or educational tools, ADA’s My Plate is a great child-friendly source.



Source: www.eatright.org/kids

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