Serving Sizes: How Much Are You Really Eating?

by Sunny Yingling, MS, RD, CSSD

Director of Nutrition, Plan Health & Fitness

Reading food labels is an important behavior to get into when you’re trying to eat healthy.  It’s your window to educating yourself on what you’re eating and how much nutrition you’re getting from that food or beverage product.  Therefore, lesson number one from this article is:

Start reading food labels!


When reading food labels, it’s important to remember to start at the top.  Unfortunately, often times we forget to check the top of the label where it indicates serving size and we’re often unaware of what that serving size actually looks like.  This can make it difficult to stick to an appropriate amount of foods or beverages.  We think we’re eating a certain calorie amount and yet we may be taking in much more!  For example, the serving size indicated at the top of most ice cream containers is ½ cup.  Now picture the last bowl of ice cream you had – did it look like the size of ½ a baseball?  (Note: a baseball is a great visual for a 1 cup serving).  Not many of us would give a resounding “Yes!”.

Not only do you need to pay attention to the serving size, but try measuring these out onto a plate or bowl to see what it looks like.  Seven chips (1 oz. serving) on a plate may look like much less than we expect; and this is without the added guacamole, cheese dip, or salsa as well!

Remember that this isn’t to say you need to stop eating these items, it simply gives you a visual reference of what the serving sizes actually look like, enabling you to be reasonable with your portion sizes.  This is especially helpful when out at a party – certainly not a place you want to stand and measure your portion sizes or count out your pretzels!