Portion Size Matters

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by Apameh Bashar RD, CNSD

Many families think following a healthy diet is difficult. In reality, with a little planning and awareness of diverse healthy food products, families would be able to follow a very balanced and healthy diet at home, and enjoyable to all!

It is a general tendency to underestimate portion sizes. In health conditions such as diabetes, the amount of carbohydrate per portion is important because it affects the blood sugar level. In weight management, portion control is a key component so not to over consume calories. Kidney and liver disease may dictate lower protein intake depending on the severity of the condition, so the portion size of the protein-containing food items is important in the total protein count for the day.

One way to become familiar with the nutrient content of foods is to be aware of the Nutrition Facts label. You will find this information on packaged foods. The serving size determines the nutrient content of the food product. So always look for the serving size which is noted on top of the label. Then you will be able to adjust your nutrient intake based on the amount of food that fits your nutrient range, whether it is for total calories, carbohydrates, protein or fat.

For more specifics on Nutrition Facts food label refer to the US department of Health and Human Services website and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Here’s a quick way of being aware of portion sizes when food labels are not available:

Deck of cards = 1/3 cup
Child’s fist or cupped hand = ½ cup
Average adult’s fist = 1 cup
Half-pint of milk = 1 cup
12-ounce soft drink can = 1 ½ cups
1 medium piece of fruit or vegetable (baseball sized) is about 1 cup
1/2 cup dried fruit is equivalent to 1 cup of fresh fruit
1 cup (8 oz.) 100% fruit or vegetable juice is equivalent to 1 cup of fruit or vegetables
2 cups of leafy greens are equivalent to 1 cup of vegetables
1/4 cup (1 oz.) nuts is one serving
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
3 oz. fish: size of a checkbook
1 oz. cheese: size of 4 dice
Medium potato: size of a computer mouse
2 Tbs. peanut butter: size of a ping pong ball
1/2 cup pasta: size of a tennis ball
Average bagel: size of a hockey puck.

Information gathered from: American Cancer Society