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What is a Serving Size?

Updated on June 13, 2013
One serving size of pizza
One serving size of pizza | Source

Serving Sizes

A serving size is the recommended amount of food or drink that should be consumed in one sitting or in one day. Everything from packaged food to fresh produce has a serving size associated with it.

Some of the lables are there to inform us what our bodies need to reach maximum performance and some are there to make us aware of exactly how much damage we are doing with what we are consuming.

Most people are unaware of what a healthy serving size looks like and some simply ignore it because it feels better not to know.

Either way, food consumption is a major contributor to many health problems and the rising obesity rate.

Why We Need The Right Amount of Food

Our bodies and brains do incredible things every day!

Whether we are asking them to do simple things like breathing, and blinking or concentrating on an important task and running a marathon, our bodies and brains need fuel to function. That is the whole purpose of eating and drinking.

If food is avoided because a person wants to lose weight or gorged because a person loves the taste and sensation, the body and brain suffers.

One Serving of Chips
One Serving of Chips | Source

How Many Calories Should We Eat?

The average adult daily diet should contain 2000 calories for men and 1800 calories for women. An easier way to make this goal a reality is to break it down by meal.

An example would be:

  • Breakfast 600 calories
  • Snack 200 calories
  • Lunch 400 calories
  • Snack 200 calories
  • Dinner 600 calories

This is broad spectrum average and any special dietary needs or concerns should be addressed with a physician.

Nutrition Label for Crackers
Nutrition Label for Crackers | Source

Nutrition Labels

All packaged foods have nutrition labels printed on them with a suggested consumption amount.

The calories and other nutritional amounts listed on that label are specific to that serving size only. It is common for people to misunderstand the label and mistakenly assume that the calorie count is for the whole package.

There are many people who have food allergies or sensitivities as well as a desire to control their calorie intake so most restaurants will have their nutritional information available also. If you don’t see the information posted or in the menu, you may request it from your server or the manager. They will most likely be happy to accommodate you.

If they don’t have the nutritional information about the food they are serving or if they just won’t let you see it, leave their establishment. There are many restaurants everywhere that will gladly help you make good choices for yourself.

Be very aware of what you are reading and consuming. If it isn't clear or you aren't sure, don’t purchase it. It is the manufactures and business’ responsibility to make consumers aware of what their product contains.

One Serving of Pasta
One Serving of Pasta | Source

Specific Portions

For foods with no labels it is hard to tell what the right portion should be.

When filling your plate, it should be 50% veggies or fruit, 25% protein, and 25% whole grains

This guide might help.

(click column header to sort results)
Food and Drink  
Amount Per Serving  
Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese
Fresh fruit
1/2 cup
Dried fruit
1/4 cup
Cooked vegetables
1/2 cup
Raw vegetable
1 cup
Pasta, dried
2/3 cup
Pasta, cooked
1 1/4 cup
Red Pasta Sauce
1/2 cup
Brown Rice uncooked
1/4 cup
Brown Rice cooked
3/4 cup
1 cup
Oatmeal, dry
1/2 cup
Oatmeal, cooked
1 cup
Peanut or almond butter
2 tablespoons
1 1/2 oz.
Ice cream
1/2 cup
1/2 cup
Tortilla Chips
1 oz.
Soda Pop
8 oz.
6 oz.
Ketchup or Steak Sauce
1 tablespoon
BBQ Sauce
2 tablespoons
Serving Sizes

Which Countries Are the Biggest?

The United States is currently the most overweight country in the world.

The percentage of obese people in the United States is at 30.6% with Mexico at 24.2% and the United Kingdom at 23% not too far behind.

There are many factors that contribute to the enormous weight issues that the people in these countries are dealing with. Knowing and understanding standard food portions sizes can be a substantial asset to controlling the obese epidemic

States With The Highest Amount of Obese and Overweight People

show route and directions
A markermississippi -
Mississippi, USA
get directions

68.8% Overweight or Obese as of 2011

B markeralabama -
Alabama, USA
get directions

70.0% Overweight or Obese as of 2011

C markerwest virginia -
West Virginia, USA
get directions

67.9% Overweight or Obese as of 2011

D markertennessee -
Tennessee, USA
get directions

67.8% Overweight or Obese as of 2011

E markerkentucky -
Kentucky, USA
get directions

67.5% Overweight or Obese as of 2011

F markerlouisiana -
Louisiana, USA
get directions

66.4% Overweight or Obese as of 2011

G markeroklahoma -
Oklahoma, USA
get directions

67.3% Overweight or Obese as of 2011

H markersouth carolina -
South Carolina, USA
get directions

67.4% Overweight or Obese as of 2011

I markerarkansas -
Arkansas, USA
get directions

67.2% Overweight or Obese as of 2011

J markermichigan -
Michigan, USA
get directions

66.8% Overweight or Obese as of 2011

Do You Ever Consider The Serving Size When Eating?

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    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      beadreamer247, I totally agree with you! Restaurant serving sizes are out of control in the US. What country did you come from?

    • beadreamer247 profile image

      beadreamer247 5 years ago from Zephyrhills, FL

      Good to inform people about serving sizes. It should be made more aware of in restaurants. But unfortunately people go after how full the plate is for their price and there is a constant competition among the restaurants to serve "most" for their price - which is so wrong! People tend to believe they have to eat it all, because they paid for it. Luckily you can take some home if you like and that's the smartest idea. Unfortunately some food does not taste good anymore after warming up....So smaller and healthier portions for a lower price would be an ideal answer.

      When I first came to the US I was in disbelief over the serving size in restaurants. It was 3 times more than what I was used to.

    • TahoeDoc profile image

      TahoeDoc 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      Oh, and I shared this one, too. Can't give people too many reminders (myself included) that what you NEED to eat and what you WANT to eat are sometimes very different (if only celery tasted like caramel chocolates).

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Tahoe Doc, I absolutely agree with you! Eating used to be for survival and our instincts are to store fat for a hard winter. Another huge difference between our society then and now is, we now have packaged foods and fast food. If everyone ate straight from the farm and avoided all the preservatives, added sugars and fats we probably wouldn't need to be so conserned with how much we ate. That isn't the world we live in so we need to either adapt or deal with the consequences I guess.

      Thank you so much for your incredibly engaging and super insightful response. Your're awesome! :)

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Marcy, I was surprised we weren't in the top ten also! I live in the Northwest and with all the 5000 calorie coffee drinks we down daily we're way over out limit before we have even decided what to have for breakfast. :)

    • TahoeDoc profile image

      TahoeDoc 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      I think portion distortion is a large part of the problem here.

      Also, our ancestors likely spent more energy getting their food than they could replace with that food much of the time. Our brains may be wired to get what you can, when you can. You are served a big portion, you eat it all. You come to expect big portions, and so on and so on...

      Unfortunately, this is not compatible with a lifestyle where pretty much as much food as you can stuff yourself with is always available. We must make a conscious effort to limit our intake. This is perhaps unnatural to our brains if they haven't evolved yet to do this naturally. Evolution may be in process as people die off younger and younger from weight-related diseases. Those who don't *need to ingest as much food, who have an easier time limiting intake and who are like cre8or and my husband with naturally higher metabolism are being selected for by the pressures of survival.

      Just a thought/theory about why it might be so hard to adapt to this. Also, food is often very yummy - just another theory.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      This is a scary hub! I'm surprised Texas isn't on the list, I have to admit. I know we have a serious problem here, too. Your entire hub is so well-researched, and I love the way you mapped out the areas that have the highest percentages.

      Voted up, useful and interesting!

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      You are indeeed very lucky Cre8or! Enjoy it for all of us :)

    • Cre8tor profile image

      Dan Robbins 5 years ago from Ohio

      I love your hub but usually laugh at recommended serving sizes. I know I shouldn't but am fortunately one of those who can eat whatever I want and think that little bowl of chips is like what I grab when I'm deciding what else I want to eat. LOL... Very well presented hub and great information. Voted up and interesting.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Don't feel bad, everyone is guilty of that to one degree or another! :)

    • Victoria4 profile image

      Victoria4 5 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading your post, very informative. I am guilty of poor eating habits period. I fail to eat the proper foods required for ones' overall health, and nutritional needs to promote healthy living. The information you have provided definitely helps, and explains further examples of what truly is "a serving size". Thank you.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      It's really hard to figure out what ok and what isn't. I grew up looking at a 'full plate' so that's what my brain says I need. You're so right when you say it becomes a habit.

      Here's to all of us being able to break that habit! :)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      roxanne.....You know, I hate that you are absolutely correct! Americans especially have always gone way overboard when it comes to "serving size." I am guilty.

      The worse part of this is that once you're used to large portions, it becomes habit.

      I read some facts not long ago that the people who eat the most healthy and sensible are the French. The main reason for this is because they are extremely "portion" conscience.

      I confess. my big mistake is allowing myself to get too hungry. I need to hire the "Portion Police" to follow me around!!

    • ElizaDoole profile image

      Lisa McKnight 5 years ago from London

      I just had a full english breakfast. So that's two celery sticks for me for the rest of the day!

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you teaches12345! :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I agree that many people do not know what a serving size. I used to not know this, but then when I had to get serious about keeping my weight down, I discovered what it was. Your advice is great and I especially love your chart reference. Voted up.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      I agree with you completely! Temptation is everywhere and it is really hard to resist, especially when it tastes soooo good.

    • emilybee profile image

      emilybee 5 years ago

      The size of portions at restaurants can be overwhelming. It's so hazardous when fast food places have really cheap burger deals that entice people to eat way too many. I always think quality over quantity but sometimes its hard. Totally agree with half the plate veggies, that's so important. Very informative hub :)

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      The recommended servings look so much different from what we are served when we eat out or when we serve ourselves, it feels like your depriving yourself at first. After a while, it's amazing how satisfied you actually are with the smaller portion. It taught me to listen to my body instead of my eyes. :)

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Thank you for sharing this hub. I really didn't know the serving size until I read your hub. Great hub! Voted up and useful.