Right Size Your Portions

Families, Food and Fitness September 25, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Portion sizes in restaurants, grocery stores, and homes continue to increase. In the 1950s, a Burger King¨ hamburger was 2.8 ounces and 202 calories. Today, a Burger King¨ hamburger is 4.3 ounces and 310 calories. In the 1950s, McDonald’s¨ offered only one size of fries, a 2.4-ounce portion with 210 calories. Today, fries come in orders as large as 7 ounces with 610 calories. The trend of large portion sizes applies to beverages as well as foods. In 1916, a bottle of Coke¨ was 6 fluid ounces. By the mid-1970s, the average portion size of sweetened drinks (soft drinks and fruit drinks) among Americans was 13.6 ounces. Today we have giant size drinks that have hundreds of calories.

Larger portion sizes encourage people to eat and drink more – no matter how hungry we are. The more we are served, the more we eat. This leads to weight gain because people consume more calories than they need.

Suggestions to Right-Size Your Portions

  • Prepare and eat more meals at home. We tend to eat larger portions when we eat out.
  • Help children learn what a normal serving looks like. For example, measure cereal in the child’s bowl and discuss that a bowl of cereal and a serving of cereal can be different.
  • Divide the contents of a large snack package into smaller containers.
  • When eating out, avoid all-you-can-eat buffets, “value” meals, and other deals that promote overeating. Select restaurants that offer smaller portions.
  • Share restaurant meals or take part of the meal home. Research suggests that purchasing a larger portion leads to an increase in calorie intake.
  • Beware of mindless eating while watching TV. If you snack in front of the TV, put an appropriate portion of food in a dish, and leave the food package in the kitchen.
  • Grab a healthy snack if you are hungry between meals. It will prevent overeating at meal time.
  • You can worry less about large portions when you eat fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables take up lots of space on your plate without adding many calories.
  • Serve food on a smaller plate to make normal portions look bigger. Limit your favorite sweetened beverage by drinking from a smaller glass.

For more information: Right-Size Your Portions PDF
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Ello-Martin J.A., Ledikwe J.H., Rolls B.J. 2005. The influence of portion size and energy density on energy intake: Implications for weight management. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 82(suppl), 236S-41S.

Nielsen S.J., Popkin B.M. 2004. Changes in beverage intake between 1977 and 2001. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 27(3), 205-10.


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.