To reach or stay at a healthy weight, how much you eat is just as important as what you eat. Do you know how much food is enough for you? Do you understand the difference between a portion and a serving? The information below explains portions and servings and provides tips to help you eat just enough for you.

What is the difference between a portion and a serving?

A portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time, whether in a restaurant, from a package, or at home. A serving, or serving size, is the amount of food listed on a product’s Nutrition Facts, or food label (see Figure 1 below).

Different products have different serving sizes, which could be measured in cups, ounces, grams, pieces, slices, or numbers—such as three crackers. A serving size on a food label may be more or less than the amount you should eat, depending on your age, weight, whether you are male or female, and how active you are. Depending on how much you choose to eat, your portion size may or may not match the serving size.

Go back to the updated food label above. To see how many servings a container has, you would check “servings per container” listed at the top of the label above “Serving size.” The serving size is 2/3 cup, but the container has eight servings. If you eat two servings or 1 1/3 cups, you need to double the number of calories and nutrients listed on the food label to know how much you are really getting. For example, if you eat two servings of this product, you are taking in 460 calories: 230 calories per serving x two servings eaten = 460 calories

How can I manage my portions at home?

You don’t need to measure and count everything you eat or drink for the rest of your life. You may only want to do this long enough to learn typical serving and portion sizes. Try these ideas to help manage portions at home:

  • Take one serving according to the food label and eat it off a plate instead of straight out of the box or bag.
  • Avoid eating in front of the TV, while driving or walking, or while you are busy with other activities.
  • Focus on what you are eating, chew your food well, and fully enjoy the smell and taste of your food.
  • Eat slowly so your brain can get the message that your stomach is full, which may take at least 15 minutes.
  • Use smaller dishes, bowls, and glasses so that you eat and drink less.
  • Eat fewer high-fat, high-calorie foods, such as desserts, chips, sauces, and prepackaged snacks.
  • Freeze food you won’t serve or eat right away, if you make too much. That way, you won’t be tempted to finish the whole batch. If you freeze leftovers in single- or family-sized servings, you’ll have ready-made meals for another day.
  • Eat meals at regular times. Leaving hours between meals or skipping meals altogether may cause you to overeat later in the day.
  • Buy snacks, such as fruit or single-serving, prepackaged foods, that are lower in calories. If you buy bigger bags or boxes of snacks, divide the items into single-serve packages right away so you aren’t tempted to overeat.

Thank you NIDDK for this helpful information. Learn more about portion sizes here.