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Serving Size Vs. Portion Size

By Wendy Melton

The difference between a serving size and a portion is personal choice. You can choose the size of portion you want to eat or you can decide to eat the recommended serving size. A serving is a specific amount that is measured and includes a certain of calories and nutrients. Portions are determined by your level of hunger and how much you decide to eat. Serving sizes help control weight, while portions can be increased according to activity levels.

Serving Size

Many products have a recommended serving size on their labels. Each serving will contain a specific amount of nutrients, calories and fats, which also are listed on the label. Some serving sizes are determined by the manufacturer according to dietary guidelines provided by the FDA. Ready to eat foods or boxed meal mixes fall into this category.

Fast food chains and restaurants base their serving size on customer choice and cost effectiveness. Fast food chains, like McDonald's offers a variety of different size meals to fit individual preferences.

Diets, such as Weight Watcher's, break down each food into serving size portions that contain a set amount of calories. Controlling serving sizes helps to maintain desired body weight and promote healthy eating habits.

Portion Size

Portion size is based on personal choice. Many packaged foods contain two or more servings, but are consumed as one portion, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. People who eat a certain amount of calories per day closely monitor the amount of foods they eat. Those who are athletic or very active may need larger portions to keep up with their body's need for energy. Increasing portion size can lead to excessive weight gain if you are not active enough to use the extra calories. Holiday meals are notorious for having tons of delicious, calorie-laden foods. It is also the time of year when portion sizes may increase exponentially compared to other times of the year.

Personal Choice

Choosing between portion size and serving size is the key difference between gaining or losing weight. Controlling how much you eat and comparing that with your activity level will determine your risk of gaining unwanted weight. To make a better, more informed choice about the amount of food you eat, always use a plate. This will allow you to see just how much you are eating. Putting fast food meals on a plate is a way to gauge how much food is in each meal, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Choosing smaller portions and following recommended serving sizes for each food will eliminate unwanted calories and prevent excessive weight gain.

Individual Needs

An athlete will have different calorie requirements than someone who does not work out on a daily basis. As your activity level increases, larger portions will be needed to maintain energy levels and stamina. When you are trying to lose weight, reducing portion size will help in cutting calories. Remember that when reducing portion size, you not only cut back on calories but nutrient levels, as well. Supplements are available to ensure adequate nutrient intake.

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