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How Much Are You Eating?
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Center for Nutrition
Policy and Promotion
United States Department of Agriculture
Putting the Guidlines
"Make that mega-sized."
"I'll have the gigantic-gulp."
"I don't believe I ate the whole thing!"
Many people feel that the bigger the portion, the better. But is that so? Not if you're trying to manage your weight. One key to getting or keeping your weight in a healthy range is to eat sensible portions. That's easy to say-but not always so easy to do! This brochure gives tips to help you decide what sensible portions are for you, and to help you stick to those reasonable portion sizes.
How much do you eat?
Suppose you had dinner at an Italian restaurant last night. You ordered spaghetti with meatballs. While you were waiting for your order, you ate 2 slices of garlic bread. How can you tell if this dinner is too much food for you? You need to estimate how much you ate, and then compare that to Food Guide Pyramid recommendations.
Think about your plateful of spaghetti and meatballs. Estimate the amounts of spaghetti, sauce, and meat. You may decide, for example, that the spaghetti portion was about 2 cups, the tomato sauce looked like about 1 cup, and the meatballs were about 6 ounces. With the 2 slices of garlic bread, you now have an idea about how much you ate for dinner. But how do your portions translate into standard servings? Chart 1 lists the serving sizes for each Food Guide Pyramid food group. According to the Pyramid, your portions equal the following number of servings:
|Food||Your portion||One Pyramid serving||Pyramid Food Group||Number of Pyramid Serving you ate|
|Spaghetti||2 cups||½ cup||Grains||4|
|Garlic bread||2 slices||1 slice||Grains||2|
|Tomato Sauce||1 cup||½ cup||Vegetables||2|
|Meatballs||6 oz.||2-3 oz.||Meat and beans||2-3|
To figure out if your spaghetti dinner was the right amount of food for you, use the Pyramid. Chart 1 also lists the number of servings recommended for each Pyramid food group, based on your calorie needs. Over a day, you should plan on eating the number of servings recommended from each group.
The number of servings from each food group recommended by the Pyramid depends on your calorie needs.
For example, if you need about 1,600 calories a day, the Pyramid recommends 6 daily servings from the Grains (Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta) group. How does this compare to your spaghetti dinner? Your dinner had 6 servingsthe total daily recommendation for someone with your calorie needs. If you had counted your portions of spaghetti and bread as only 1 serving each, you might think you had only eaten 2 servings from the Grains group. But, you actually ate 6! By comparing the portion you ate with a standard Pyramid serving, you can judge whether your daily intake is right for you.
Pyramid serving sizes and the recommended number of servings from each group are guides to help determine your daily intake. Your portions do not have to match the standard serving size-they can be larger or smaller. But, the amount you eat over the day should match the total amount of a food that is recommended. Often, the food portions of grains and meats that people choose are larger than the Pyramid serving size. Be especially careful when counting servings from these groups to figure out how many Pyramid servings are in your portions.
Food Guide Pyramid
Portions and servings - What's the difference?
A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat. There is no standard portion size and no single right or wrong portion size.
A serving is a standard amount used to help give advice about how much to eat, or to identify how many calories and nutrients are in a food.
You eat a sandwich with 2 slices of bread.
The Food Guide Pyramid serving size for bread is 1 slice.
Your portion is 2 slices, which equals 2 servings from the Pyramid Grains group.
Your 2 servings are one-third of the Pyramid recommendation of 6 servings for people needing 1,600 calories per day. (See Chart 1.)
Chart 1. How to use the Food Guide Pyramid
How many servings do you need each day?
What counts as a serving?
|Children ages 2 to 6,women, someolder adults(1,600 calories)||Older children,teen girls, activewomen, most men(2,200 calories)||Teen boys andactive men(2,800 calories)|
|Grains Group (Bread, Cereal, Rice,
and Pasta) especially whole grain
and Cheese Group - preferably fat free or low fat
||2 or 3*||2 or 3*||2 or 3*|
|Meat and Beans Group (Meat,
Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts) preferably lean or low fat
||2, for a total of 5 ounces||2, for a total of 6 ounces||2, for a total of 7 ounces|
|* Older children and
teens ages 9 to 18 years and adults over age 50 need 3 servings daily, others
need 2 servings daily.
** This includes lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk products. Soy-based beverages with added calcium are an option for those who prefer a non-dairy source of calcium.
Chart 2. Sample food portions larger than 1 Pyramid serving
This list shows the size of a portion you may choose or be served. They are not recommendations. This chart compares these portions to Pyramid servings, so that you can judge how they might fit into your overall daily eating plan.
|Food||Sample portion you receive||Compare to Pyramid serving size||Approximate Pyramid servings in this portion|
|1 bagel 4 ½" in diameter(4 ounces)||½ bagel 3" in diameter(1 ounce)||4|
|Muffin||1 muffin 3 ½" in diameter(4 ounces)||1 muffin 2 ½" in diameter(1½ ounces)||3|
|English muffin||1 whole muffin||½ muffin||2|
|Sweet roll or cinnamon bun||1 large from bakery (6 ounces)||1 small (1 ½ ounces)||4|
|Pancakes||4 pancakes 5" in diameter(10 ounces)||1 pancake 4" in diameter(1 ½ ounces)||6|
|Burrito-sized flour tortilla||1 tortilla 9" in diameter(2 ounces)||1 tortilla 7" in diameter(1 ounce)||2|
|Individual bag of tortilla chips||1 ¾ ounces||12 tortilla chips (¾ ounce)||2|
|Popcorn||16 cups (movie theatre, medium)||2 cups||8|
|Hamburger bun||1 bun||½ bun||2|
|Spaghetti||2 cups (cooked)||½ cup (cooked)||4|
|Rice||1 cup (cooked)||½ cup (cooked)||2|
|1 large (7 ounces)||1 small (2 ¼ ounces)||3|
|French fries||1 medium order (4 ounces)||½ cup, 10 French fries(1 ounce)||4|
|Meat and Beans Group
Broiled chicken breast
|6 ounces||2 to 3 ounces||2|
|Fried chicken||3 pieces (7 to 8 ounces)||2 to 3 ounces||3|
|Broiled fish||6 to 9 ounces||2 to 3 ounces||3|
|Sirloin steak||8 ounces (cooked, trimmed)||2 to 3 ounces||3|
|Porterhouse steak or prime rib||13 ounces (cooked, trimmed)||2 to 3 ounces||5|
|Ham or roast beef(in deli sandwich)||5 ounces||2 to 3 ounces||2|
|Tuna salad (in deli sandwich)||6 ounces||2 to 3 ounces||2|
How can you follow Pyramid recommendations?
Let's go back to the spaghetti dinner. In this example, you know that you should have 6 daily servings from the Grains group. Before dinner, you estimate that you have already had 3 Grains group servings. So, only 3 more servings would meet your recommended intake. To keep to 3 servings, you eat only one slice of garlic bread. When you see the large plate of spaghetti, you set aside half on your plate and ask for a "doggie bag" to take it home. Then, the following would have been your choices from the Grains group over the day:
|Meal||Grains Group portions||3 Pyramid Grains Group servings|
|Breakfast||½ cup of oatmeal||=||1 serving|
|Lunch||1 hamburger bun||=||2 servings|
|Dinner||1 slice of garlic bread||=||1 serving|
|Dinner||1 cup of spaghetti||=||2 servings|
|TOTALS||4 portions||=||6 servings|
In 4 sensible portions, you have consumed your recommended 6 servings of grains. Note that an active man may need about 2,800 calories each day. Checking chart 1, this man's Grains group recommendation would be 11 servings per day. The full spaghetti dinner might fit easily within his recommended food choices for the day.
One key to making wise food choices is knowing how much you are eating, as well as how much you should eat. This is especially important if you are trying to lose weight or manage your weight.
Tips to help you choose sensible portions
When eating out:
Don't be fooled by large portions
Many items sold as single portions actually provide 2 or more Pyramid servings. For example, a large bagel may actually be equal to 3 or 4 servings from the Grains group. A restaurant portion of steak maybe more than the recommended amount for the whole day. Chart 2 lists other common examples of foods that are often sold or prepared in portions larger than 1 Pyramid serving.
Nutrition Facts label serving sizes
The serving sizes listed on the Nutrition Facts label may be different from Food Guide Pyramid serving sizes. Many Pyramid serving sizes are smaller than those on the Nutrition Facts label. For example, 1 serving of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta is 1 cup for the label but only ½ cup for the Pyramid.
Use the Nutrition Facts label to make nutritional comparisons of similar products. The label serving size is not meant to tell you how much to eat, but to help identify nutrients in a food and to make product comparisons easier. To compare the calories and nutrients in two foods, first check the serving size and the number of servings in the package. Serving sizes are provided in familiar units, such as cups or pieces.
The Bottom Line
Choosing sensible portions is a key to controlling calorie intake and getting or keeping your weight in a healthy range. What is sensible for you?
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
The Dietary Guidelines offer sound advice that will help to promote your health and reduce your risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, stroke, and osteoporosis. The 10 Guidelines are grouped into the ABC's of nutrition:
A: Aim for fitness
B: Build a healthy base
C: Choose sensibly
To order Dietary Guidelines publications, call 888-878-3256. Ask for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (40-page bulletin, $4.75 per copy) or Using the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (5-panel brochure, $.50 per copy). You can also find out more about the Guidelines and download these publications by visiting USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion website at www.cnpp.usda.gov.
The U.S. Department ofAgriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at 202-720-2600 (voice and TDD).
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call 202-720-5964 (voice or TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
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