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Controlling Portion Sizes

As meals swell to “super-size,” so do American waistlines

It seems like everything these days is “super-sized.” Cutting back on sugar, fat, and calories can be as simple watching your portion sizes, especially of foods high in fat and sugar.

Eating smaller portions of food is one of the easiest ways to cut back on calories – but it can also be one of the most challenging, with the current trend of super-sizing. Huge portions, all-you-can-eat-buffets, and extra-large “single servings” of chips, candy bars, and other snack foods can all lead to overeating.

How do you know a reasonable portion of food when you see it? Visualize the objects mentioned below when eating out, planning a meal, or grabbing a snack. For example, the amount of meat recommended as part of a healthy meal is 3 to 4 ounces – it will look about the same size as a deck of cards.

The look of normal portion sizes

    1 oz. meat = size of a matchbox

    3 oz. meat = size of a deck of cards or bar of soap (the recommended portion for a meal)

    8 oz. meat = size of a thin paperback book

    1 medium potato = size of a computer mouse

Even some bagels have become super-sized, which gives this reasonably healthy breakfast item a high calorie count. Bakeries and grocery stores often carry jumbo bagels that measure 4¼ inches across and contain 300 to 400 calories each. A regular, 3-inch-diameter bagel has about 150 calories.

To eat smaller portions try the following ideas

When eating out

  • Choose a regular single hamburger at your favorite fast food stop instead of the larger burger or the double burger.
  • Have the small fries instead of the super-sized.
  • Order a small soda or, even better, drink water.
  • Share an entrée with a friend when you go to a restaurant.
  • Ask for half your meal to be packed for you and eat it for lunch the next day.

At home

  • Don’t “eat from the bag.” When snacking, place a few chips, crackers, or cookies in a bowl to help keep from overeating.
  • Buy single portions of snack foods so you’re not tempted by the whole bag or box.
  • Like butter and sour cream on your baked potato? Mayonnaise and cheese on your sandwich? Cream cheese on your bagel? Use half the amount you usually do – and save even more calories by using low-fat varieties.

Boost servings of fruits and vegetables

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends at least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day to help prevent cancer. Substitute low calorie, high-fiber fruits and vegetables for higher calorie foods and snacks – it will help you get the fruits and vegetables you need, feel full, and save on calories!

Last Medical Review: 06/30/2014
Last Revised: 06/30/2014