Get Control of Your Portions

How many servings are in your portion of pasta or steak?  We’ve become so accustomed to seeing super-sized portions, that it’s hard to know what a single serving is actually supposed to look like.  Oftentimes that individual bag of chips or bottle of soda that you buy may contain 2-3 servings!  And the dinner portion you receive at a restaurant could provide your entire day’s worth of calories.

Look at how much average portion sizes have grown over the past 20 years…


20 Years Ago




Portion Calories Portion Calories










Ch burger










Spaghetti &
m balls
1 cup sauce
3 sm
m balls



2 cups sauce
3 lg
m balls





6.5 oz




20 oz




1.5 oz




5 oz






That’s a lot of extra calories!

Have you become a victim of portion distortion?  Never fear, you can use these strategies to get your portions under control…

  • Check packaged foods to see what a “serving” size actually is.
  • Use smaller plates and bowls when possible.  
    • The standard size of a dinner plate has grown from 10 inches in the 1980s to 12 inches today!  Cup and bowl sizes have also increased over the years.  Research shows that people eat and drink more when larger-sized portions are offered and when larger plates and glasses are used.
  • Try not to nibble while you prepare your food.
    • I know that if I cook while I am hungry, my food “sampling” can get out of control. If you are already hungry while you are cooking, keep some veggies and a glass of water nearby to keep your appetite at bay.
  • Don’t eat directly from the bag or serving container.  
    • At meals, keep the serving dishes off the table.  Sometimes we snack or take seconds just because food is within reach.
  • Measure your foods before  you put them on your plate.  
    • Start with one serving of each item.  Use measuring cups when possible.  If those aren’t handy, you can use this guide to portion sizes.


Source: University of Maryland Medical Center

  • Put away any extra food right away.  
    • You will be much less likely to go back for seconds if you have already put the food in the fridge.
  • Forget about “cleaning your plate” and listen to your body.  
    • Slow down your eating and stop when you feel satisfied/no longer hungry.  If you feel “full” then you have probably eaten too much.
  • At a restaurant?  Split a meal with your companion.  If that doesn’t work, ask the server to bring a to-go box with your food and save half for later.  Don’t trust yourself?  Ask the server split it for you and bring out the other half boxed – with your check.


Jen Kim, RDN

About Jen Kim, RDN

Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). She completed her Bachelor’s of Science degree at the University of Illinois, and holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from San Diego State University. Jennifer also has a Certification in Adult Weight Management. She has worked in hospitals as a Clinical Dietitian, done obesity research and worked as a Corporate Dietitian for a national weight loss company. Jennifer is passionate about helping people live healthier lives. She believes in a balanced approach to nutrition – where all foods can fit – centered around a natural, plant-based diet. Jen lives in San Diego with her husband and two boys – where she enjoys playing soccer and tennis, hiking, playing on the beach, playing board games and shooting pool.