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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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How Many Servings are in Your Portion?

Did you know that a serving and a portion aren’t the same thing? That probably sounds weird because sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. But technically, a serving is one unit out of however many you need per day from a particular food group. A portion is the amount you actually eat at a meal or snack.

For example, a serving of bread is one slice. If you make a sandwich with two slices, your portion is equal to two servings. So, the good news is a serving isn’t intended to be the maximum amount of a food you should eat at one time (I mean, really, who’s gonna make a sandwich with 1 slice of bread?), but sometimes 1 serving is a pretty reasonable portion (like 1 cup of yogurt).

Now, the really good news is that by knowing how many total servings you should be eating per day, you can select perfect portion sizes. Here’s an example: Jane needs 6 servings of grains each day. So, a great way to break them up would be to eat 2 servings at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Well, pasta counts as a grain and 1 serving equals a half cup cooked (the size of half a tennis ball or one of those mini fruit cups).

So, when Jane goes to her favorite Italian restaurant, she walks in knowing that 1) a serving of pasta is half a cup, and 2) she has 2 servings to spend. So she eats about a cup of pasta (the size of a tennis ball), skips the breadsticks, and requests a doggie bag for the rest. Pretty savvy, huh? Of course, the big question is, how the heck do you know how many servings you need per day and what a serving looks like? Well, just log onto www.mypyramid.gov. Enter your age, sex, and activity level, and you’ll get a PDF of your own personal pyramid complete with the number of servings you need from each food group (to support your ideal weight) and serving size lessons. So, there you go! Happy serving, uh, I mean surfing.
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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