Have you ever wondered if you are serving the right portion size for food when preparing your snack or meal?
Portion sizes and serving sizes can be confusing.
- How much should i eat?
- Should I keep the portion sizes?
- How do I know if I need more than the "average" person or not?
These are just a few of the many questions I hear from the community every day!
In order for the nutrients you eat to do their job and provide your body with adequate energy, we need to make sure we are consuming the correct amounts.
Knowing what serving sizes your body needs will help you find the right balance of daily nutrients so that our bodies are comfortable every day and prevent chronic diseases and health complications in the long term.
This article will teach you everything you need to know about portion sizes so that you are confident about how to feed yourself and know that you are not inadvertently overeating or undereating.
Serving Size Vs. Serving Size
The first thing to understand is the difference between serving sizes and serving sizes.
Often times the words serving sizes and serving sizes are used interchangeably, but there is actually a difference between the two.
What most people understand is portion sizes. Serving sizes are the guidelines that appear on the nutritional labels for packaged foods.
They are specific, standardized, and measurable, and are portioned by the FDA based on general, recommended guidelines for what the average person eats.
Portion sizes, on the other hand, are individually tailored to you, your needs and your eating habits. There are no set standard portion sizes. If you decide on a food and then physically ingest a certain amount, the amount of food on your plate will match your serving size.
Why Eating The Right Portion Size Is Important
Our body is literally made up of the food we eat. We synthesize tissues, extract energy, and perform body functions based on the nutrients we get from food.
Too much or too little food can change these necessary processes and later lead to complications.
On the one hand, if you constantly undereat or do not get enough of certain foods, you are likely to lack vital nutrition, which can lead to fatigue, lethargy, muscle loss, hair loss, brittle nails, irritability, and excessive thirst over time.
On the flip side, consistent overeating can also make your body feel less than its best and cause a range of symptoms such as unintended weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, heart disease, and more.
Taking the time to determine which serving sizes are right for you in line with your health and wellness goals can make all the difference in how you feel and function on a daily basis.
1. Helps you find the right balance of daily nutrients
When we have the right nutritional balance, our body can do its best. This is one of the best ways to prevent chronic illness and health complications in the long term.
2. You feel full and full of energy
If we don't eat enough during the day, we consistently feel slightly hungry. This can lead to irritability and even anxiety. Conversely, if we overeat during the day, we can feel overly full and sluggish instead of feeling hungry and irritable. The goal is to eat the right portion sizes for your individual body so that you can feel full and full of energy!
3. No foods are prohibited
The better you understand the portion sizes that are right for you, the better you will understand that there is no need to completely remove or limit foods from your diet. It is perfectly okay to eat in moderation foods that are not necessarily the most nutritious option. Understanding and becoming familiar with serving sizes will give you the confidence and clarity you need to find a happy medium for your health and wellbeing.
6 steps to find the right serving size for what you need at every meal
Portion sizes are individual for each person on a particular day. Dinner yesterday maybe a little smaller than today – and that's perfectly fine!
Contrary to what most people might think, portion sizes of food are generally not the first thing we look at.
Understanding portion sizes is so much more than just knowing the numbers or hard facts, it's about adjusting to your body.
One of our members came to us after trying just about everything – from calorie and macronutrient counting with apps to meal plans and diet programs. She just couldn't seem to find a way to keep her portion sizes under control.
Despite the fact that she wanted to talk about portion sizes from the start, we instead discussed mindful eating and how she could use it to get used to her hunger and satiety traits again. We then discussed their wellness goals as well as their usual activity level and how these factors can affect their hunger and subsequently their portion sizes.
By stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, she could understand that her hunger was not the enemy but the key to her success with portion sizes.
Take the same approach by using the 6 steps below to determine which serving sizes are right for you.
1. Start checking in with your hunger and satiety characteristics
This will always be most important.
When are you usually hungry? How full are you after eating? Are you really full or do you usually feel hungry again after just an hour?
Get to know your hunger cues. Look at your usual habits and tendencies with a lens of curiosity. Just taking a moment to think about it will give you so much information about how to go about it.
If you find that you are uncomfortably full after most meals, reduce your portion sizes slightly and check again. If you find that you are hungry very soon after a meal, try increasing your portion sizes and go from there.
It's about your individual body and your individual needs.
2. Practice mindful eating
Often times, eating becomes just another item on a to-do list for people. It is something we have to do quickly to get on with our day.
Unfortunately, this approach to eating can often lead to pointless eating over time. This is the time when we stop truly experiencing, tasting, and appreciating our food. This can also result in serving sizes larger or smaller than we really need.
Take some time to bring your mindfulness back into your meals. This is a great resource to use if you are trying this!
3. Take into account your daily activities
Your activity affects your energy needs. Do you move frequently throughout the day? Or are you mainly sedentary? The more we move, the more energy we need.
This may fluctuate a lot, so your portion sizes will also fluctuate. Always make sure to acknowledge your exercise and how it affects your hunger and feeling of satiety.
4. Determine your strengths and weaknesses
We all have both strengths and weaknesses, especially when it comes to portion sizes. Make sure you figure out what yours are and address them as best you can.
For example, if you know that after more than 5 hours without eating you will no longer have control over your portion sizes, try not to prepare for failure! Make sure you have a snack that will hold you tight, even if it means packing or prepping something ahead of time.
5. Use your plate as a guide
In general, certain foods and macronutrients are associated with larger or smaller serving sizes. A great way to use this to your advantage is to use these general guidelines as a starting point.
The following picture is a general recommendation for how much of each component we should have on our plate.
Will this guide stay the same for everyone? Of course not. But it can be a great place to start when you're just getting started!
Common mistakes people make with portion and portion sizes
When learning portion sizes, there are some common mistakes people make when learning all on their own. Let's go over some of the most common ones so that you can actively avoid them!
1. Trying to always make part sizes accurate
This is one of the first mistakes many people make when changing their lifestyle and trying to achieve health and wellness goals.
It can be so easy to focus on exact portion sizes, but in reality it really isn't necessary. If we constantly try to pinpoint portion sizes with the help of measuring cups, spoons, and scales, the lifestyle you aspire to quickly becomes a strict diet.
It's important to be aware of your portion sizes, but perfection just doesn't exist – so why argue about it? Use these tools to familiarize yourself with your portion sizes, then build your confidence in parking balls and the eyeball from there.
2. Think that serving sizes apply to everyone
Every packaged food product you buy has a nutrition label on the back with a fixed portion size.
These serving sizes are based on the "average" American assuming they are consuming a 2,000 calorie diet. In reality, not everyone fits into this shape. Some people need larger servings while others may need fewer.
While these serving sizes can be a good place to start, they shouldn't necessarily dictate all of your serving sizes. This is where working with a registered nutritionist can be helpful. Depending on your particular health and wellness goals, they can tell you what the serving sizes look like for you in relation to the listed serving sizes and how to use them in realistic, maintainable ways.
3. Ignore references to hunger and satiety
Sometimes it can be difficult to trust yourself, especially when it comes to hunger and abundance.
Am I really hungry for more food or do I just want it? How do I know if I'm actually full?
There are so many questions on our mind when it comes to determining how much to eat. Yes, we want to think about and be aware of portion sizes, but we also need to listen to our bodies.
Our cues of hunger and satiety are the way the body tells us that we need energy or that we have enough energy. If we don't follow these guidelines, it can be easy to overeat or undereat as we instead follow strict portioning guidelines.
4. Always keep the portion sizes the same
Once we know what serving sizes to eat, they should be exactly the same all the time, right? Not exactly.
We eat to strengthen our bodies. Some days we only need minimal fuel, other days we may need a lot more. For example, if you hike, run, or work outside in your yard, you will need larger portions than if you hang inside and watch movies all day.
In addition, health and wellness goals must be taken into account. Do you want to build muscle? Or maybe you are trying to maintain your weight – this will play a role in determining portion sizes as well.
Remember that your daily activities and goals will change your energy needs from time to time.
Put this into practice
We are all so unique as individuals and our daily lives are so different. Our needs are so individual and constantly changing.
That is why it is so important for you to learn how to better take your body and its own needs into account in order to support yourself in the best possible way.
And that's exactly what I'm going to guide you through the Mindful Nutrition Method ™. When you're ready to get more support on your journey and build confidence in the best possible care for your body, join us.
Although it takes patience and practice to be fully in tune with your body, you deserve the confidence that you are taking the best possible care of your health.