Apply to the University of Wyoming apply now

Global Resource Navigation

Visit Campus
Download UW Viewbook
Give to UW

Appetite for Knowledge

Size Does Matter!

We can eat almost any type of food and still stay within a healthy range of calories for the day. Decide how to spend a budget of calories daily. Higher-calorie foods will use up more of the budget than low-calorie foods. To budget the calories wisely, look at the sizes of the portions you are eating. One of the biggest reasons so many Americans are overweight is that they have no concept of healthy food portions.

Many people know the right kinds of food to eat. They know that baked chicken is more nutritious than fried chicken, for example. However, many people have no concept of how much food is too much.

People tend to underestimate how much they eat at a typical meal. We have come to expect large portions at restaurants, but instead of eating half the meal and taking the other half home or sharing it with a dining partner; we eat the whole, gigantic portion.

What Is a Serving?

A serving is the amount of food listed on the Nutrition Facts panel on packaged foods or what is recommended for the food groups on the MyPlate. A portion is the amount of food on the plate. Portions may contain several servings. The daily recommendation for grains is 6 to 11 servings. A serving is just 1 slice of bread or 1/2 cup of rice or pasta. Some people incorrectly think they should be eating 6 portions so triple the amount is eaten in a day.

Not sure what a portion size should be? Relate portions to common objects.

  • A deck of playing cards = one serving (three ounces) of meat, poultry, or fish
  • Half a baseball = one serving (one-half cup) of fruit, vegetables, pasta, or rice.
  • Your thumb = one serving (one ounce) of cheese.
  • A small hand holding a tennis ball = one serving (one cup) of yogurt or chopped fresh greens.

Eye Appeal

When it comes to eating, most people are driven by what they see, not by how they feel. Hunger is driven by instinct. By putting too much food on the plate, you will perceive an oversized meal as normal. If you change that habit, and start serving yourself smaller portions, you will perceive this smaller amount as a normal meal.

Mindful Eating

“Mindful eating” is another way to help master portion control. Be aware – think about what and how much you are consuming. Eat slowly – taste each bite. Recognize how frequently you eat. Enjoy the experience of eating. By mindful eating, our choices are monitored and the body has a chance to respond to what was consumed.

Tips to Managing Your Plate

Learn to read food labels. Pay attention to the number of servings contained in the package, then note the calorie and fat content per serving.

Compare portions to recommended serving sizes. If you eat a portion of food compare its size to what’s recommended on the MyPlate.

Repackage supersize bags. Supersize bags may be more economical, but they can also encourage you to overeat. If you buy huge bags, repackage the contents into smaller containers.

Share a meal. Split one main course with another person when you go out for a meal. Order one dessert and some extra forks. Four people can enjoy a taste or two of a decadent dessert, without feeling guilty.

Eat half or less. If you’re not sharing a meal, eat half of what is served and take the rest home to enjoy as another meal. If you have a hard time leaving food on your plate – remember that there are two ways to waste food: You can throw it out or carry it around as fat cells.

Use a smaller plate. At home, serve your meals on smaller plates. Your plate will look full, but you’ll be eating less.

Skip second helpings. Eat one reasonable helping and don’t go back for seconds.

Slow down! Eat slowly, to allow yourself time to feel full so you won’t be as tempted to heap on a second helping.

Rather than cutting carbs, fats or proteins, Americans should “smartsize” their portions. Use visual images to become aware of how much you are eating. Pair the MyPlate with practical food portion measurements and you will have an easy and accurate way to gain control over the amount of food you eat. By mastering portion control, you’ll improve your health and manage or even lose weight.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Portion Control Text with Fork

Contact Our Experts


Extension Educators:
Shelley Balls – (307) 885-3132
Denise Smith – (307) 334-3534
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

Appetite for Knowledge - Read!

Recipes - Try One Now!

Have a Question?

Contact Our Experts


Extension Educators:
Shelley Balls – (307) 885-3132
Denise Smith – (307) 334-3534
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming | College of Agriculture and Natural Resources | Extension

Subscribe to UW Nutrition and Food Safety Newletters


Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

The University of Wyoming is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution.

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
UW Operators (307) 766-1121 | Contact Us | Download Adobe Reader

Twitter Icon Youtube Icon Instagram Icon Facebook Icon