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Serving Size Versus Portion Size

Confusion between 'servings' and 'portions' makes eating the right amount of food difficult.

Confusion between "servings" and "portions" makes eating the right amount of food difficult, particularly given the super-sizing trend. Potato chips bags, for example, contain 60 percent on average more than 20 years ago, while soft drinks are generally 50 percent larger.

Serving sizes are standardized amounts of food with specific calorie and nutrient contents. Portions, on the other hand, are how much we choose to eat. To make sure you aren't overeating, you must know the size of a serving. The following everyday approximations should help.

Approximate Single-Serving Sizes  

Grilled fish

Personal checkbook


Computer mouse

Meat serving

Deck of cards

Hard cheese

Four dice

Peanut butter

Tip of your thumb

Cup of fruit



Tennis ball

Once we see how small servings are, most of us realize our portions are way too big. A typical serving of steak at a restaurant, for example, is the size of four decks of cards, the equivalent of four servings. Obviously, choosing to eat wisely means giving importance both to what and to how much we eat.

Carole Carson, author of From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction, serves as the coach for the AARP Fat to Fit online community.

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