Food Friday: Portion Sizes 

For something so critical to nutrition and well being, I am surprised I haven’t written about this yet. We talk about what to eat, and when to eat. But this discussion is nowhere near complete unless we talk about how much to eat. And how much can be very subjective. Estimates of portion size can be critically flawed. Sometimes when I listen to patients recount dietary history, it sounds correct, and yet they are not losing weight as one might expect. I think in many cases this is because portion size may be underestimated, sabotaging their efforts. 

It’s no secret that portion sizes in restaurants and grocery stores have purposely catered to our gluttonous tendencies. Portions have grown to more than twice of those in the 1980s. Even our plates and cups are bigger. This keeps us coming back for more and allows them to charge us more. A win win right ? Not for us. Obesity is a huge public health problem, and one that has both physical and psychological consequences. 

Let’s examine various methods of portion size management, and you can see what can work for you.

1. Know your calorie requirements. Use the handy calculator in the link.

2. Have a general sense of your nutrition proportions: ( These are from the US FDA, the Food and Drug Administration.)


3. Check reference or for labels to check the size and specifications of a serving size. Compare this to what you need for your meal or snack. Serving size on the container does not necessarily equal recommended size .

4. Have a set of measuring cups and spoons. Have a small kitchen scale. Until your are familiar with common units of measure, measure and weight things. Here are some common measures of volume: 

2 Tablespoons = ping pong ball

1/2 cup =tennis ball

1c = baseball 


5. Avoid eating out. If you do, order small portions and just eat part of it. 

6. Buy in bulk but repackage in smaller quantities and do not eat from the bag. 

7. Don’t skip meals 

8. Do eat in between meal snacks which pair protein with produce. 

9. Use smaller plates and make sure your plate is at least half filled with green vegetables before you take other dishes. 

10. Avoid doing other things while eating. 

11. Eat slowly. Your brain takes at least 15 minutes to register that you are full. 

12. Stop eating when you feel 80% full. 


Part of the pleasure of eating is the taste and the company you eat with. But I would like to point out that the pleasure of eating also involves knowing that what you are eating is good for your body. Finally part of the pleasure of eating is knowing you have not eaten too much. Watch portions sizes, and your meals with will be better than ever.