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What Is One Serving?



It is very easy to underestimate portions when we see entrees served in restaurants with out of control large servings of meats, pastas, bread galore, and small servings of veggies.

When I work with new clients I always find that it is very important to review what counts as one serving from the different food groups.

Please keep the following in mind when you order out your meals and prepare them at home.

Let’s start with the starch group or also what is known as the bread group. Every food item listed in the bread group is equal to the calories and carbs of one slice of bread. I always say figure 100 calories for a typical slice of bread. Remember that the serving size for the loose carbs like rice, pasta, quinoa, couscous, peas, corn and legumes is ½ cup. A serving of potato is 3 ounces which I always say is like a small red potato. When we have a baked potato usually it is 6 oz. One time you should weigh a potato at your local market and you will be amazed that you probably have been eating a 9 oz. potato which is the average size that you are served at a restaurant.

I tell women that wish to lose weight that they should keep their bread servings around 4-6 per day depending on their activity and height. For men I tell them that they should keep to 6-9 servings to lose weight. Yes, it is not fair but men have the advantage of being able to consume more breads because of their higher percentage of muscle.

Interestingly, I find that clients skimp on protein in their menus at home but when they go to restaurants, they go crazy. They are usually eating the large protein meal at night. I always say take home half of the entrée and eat it for lunch the next day.

If you look at the protein group a serving is 1 ounce of meat, poultry, fish, 1 egg, ½ cup legumes or tofu. Again, it is helpful to weigh your meats at home and realize that for lunch you should have 4-6 ounces of protein to keep you from feeling hungry. I suggest for breakfast 2 ounces of protein and then 2 oz. of protein for snack in the afternoon. For dinner I suggest a few ounces of protein like a condiment. In total, I recommend for women to have 8- 10 ounces of protein per day and for men 10-12 ounces per day.

Clients often ask how they can get the recommended 5 servings of fruits and veggies. They do not know that a serving of veggie and fruit is only ½ cup cooked and 1 cup raw. So that means all you have to eat is 2 ½ cups cooked veggies and fruits. The fruits available in the markets are oversized from the apple to the large grapes and bananas. You cannot find small apples or oranges often, so probably you can count each apple or orange as two fruits. The grapes these days are huge and can be about 20 calories each. A standard serving of grapes was 10, but now I tell people that they should not buy them if you end up eating the entire bunch. Dried fruits are very popular these days and I see people overeating on them. They are so little in size but they are dehydrated fruit. The calories are very high and the serving is 1/3 cup.

I suggest women to have two fruits per day and at least 3 servings of veggies per day such as a 1 cup cooked veggies and 1 cup of salad. Veggies have half the amount of calories than fruits and that is why I recommend more veggies than fruits.

We all need to eat dairy products for Calcium no matter what age. A dairy product is always compared to a glass of milk which is about 100 calories. My clients that are on the go are enjoying healthy Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and soy milk for calcium. A serving is considered ½ cup of yogurt or cottage cheese. A serving for regular high fat cheeses like cheddar is 1 ounce. People buy cheddar cheese in the blocks and then just cut off pieces and have no idea how many servings they are eating. I say buy pre-sliced cheeses to keep your portion size in check. All you need is two slices of cheese to keep the calcium in your bones. I tell women that you need two servings of dairy in your diet and I tell men the same.

Now let’s talk about the Fat Group that contains your oils, butter, margarines, salad dressings, and even olives, avocadoes and nut butters. We need to have fats in our foods for enjoyment and for our organs, skin, hair and nails. Clients are shocked when I tell them that a serving of butter, mayo, and oil is 1 teaspoon. Yes, a serving of fat is equal to 45 calories. A 4 inch across avocado and then 1/8 of it is a serving. Who eats 1/8 of an avocado? We eat a ¼ or a half. We need some fat at each meal for taste and for satiety. I suggest for men and women to have a total of 4-5 fats per day. Now that is the added fats that we spread or splash onto our foods.

I hope this detailed information helps. You might have to reread this article a few times to understand the reasonable portion sizes that we should be keeping to. You can eat healthy but if you want to lose weight you have to pay attention to portion sizes.