Healthy Eating Habits: Portion Distortion and Serving Sizes


A portion is the amount of food that you choose to eat for a meal or snack. It can be big or small—you decide.

A serving is a measured amount of food or drink, such as one slice of bread or one cup (eight ounces) of milk.

Many foods that come as a single portion actually contain multiple servings. The Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods—on the backs of cans, sides of boxes, etc.— tells you the number of servings in the container.

For example, look at the label of a 20-ounce soda (typically consumed as one portion), and you’ll see that it has 2.5 servings in it. A 3-ounce bag of chips—which some would consider a single portion—contains 3 servings.

Portion Distortion

Average portion sizes have grown so much over the past 20 years that sometimes the plate arrives and there’s enough food for two or even three people on it. These growing portion sizes are changing what Americans think of as a “normal” portion at home, too. We call it portion distortion.

Check out these examples of how growing portions lead to increased calories:

Comparison of Portions and Calories 20 Years Ago to Present Day

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