What's the Difference in a Serving and a Portion?

A Portion of Food

In your quest to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, you may run into a common question that affects us all: how do serving size and portion size differ? Good question! Unfortunately, the answer could be standing in the way of your healthy lifestyle, so understanding this difference is extremely important. Keep reading to find out.

Servings, Explained

According to the National Institutes of Health, a serving size is the recommended amount of food listed on a package. The number of servings adds up to the amount inside. This information is freely available on the Nutrition Facts label of a food or drink container.

Portions, Explained

A portion is the amount of food you put on your plate at a given time. Whether this food or drink is served at home or from a restaurant, the portion varies. However, adjusting portions are entirely under your control.

The Discrepancy

The National Food and Drug Administration determines the amount of servings and calories per serving in a package of food. However, you decide how many of those servings to eat. Prevent you and your family from overeating by following a few simple rules.

  • Restaurants provide portions that are much larger than necessary. Ask your waitress to box half the dish in a to-go container before it is served. This helps you to avoid eating unnecessarily large portions.
  • Never eat directly out of packages at home or on the go.
  • Purchase a food scale to actually measure snacks and other foods before eating them to ensure your portion fits with the serving size.

A huge discrepancy lies in the numbers listed on the back of packages and what people actually consume. People rarely measure out or calculate their servings which often leads to larger portions of what they eat.


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