Stay Young at Heart - Portion Distortion
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Keep an Eye on Portion Size

What is the difference between Portions and Servings?

A "portion" can be thought of as the amount of a specific food you choose to eat for dinner, snack, or other eating occasion. Portions, of course can be bigger or smaller than the recommended food servings.

A "serving" is a unit of measure used to describe the amount of food recommended from each food group. It is the amount of food listed on the Nutrition Facts panel on packaged food or the amount of food recommended in the Food Guide Pyramid and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

 For example, 6-11 servings of whole grains are recommended daily. A recommended serving of whole grains would be 1 slice of bread or 1/2 cup of rice or pasta. (Download the Serving Size Card for more examples of recommended serving sizes). People often confuse the recommendation to mean 6 to 11 portions with no regard to size. It is not 6 to 11 portions where one portion could mean a large bowl of pasta rather than ½ cup. Keep an eye on portion size to see how your portions compare with the recommended servings.

Check out the NHLBI menu planner and sample menus for weight loss to see examples of appropriate portions and serving size.

 The sample menus help you create reduced calorie meal plans. These items use the servings recommended by the American Dietetic Association's (ADA) Food Exchange List. The servings recommended by the ADA exchange list may differ from the Nutrition Facts panel and the Dietary Guidelines For Americans. See the exchange list to give yourself more choices.

 The menu planner helps you to create your own meals or add up your daily calorie intake.

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 Download a Serving Size Card (PDF file) to help you recall what a standard food serving looks like. Cut out the card and laminate it for long time use.

 Portion Distortion I
 Portion Distortion II
Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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