Serving Size vs Portion Size: How are They Different and Why Does it Matter?

Two phrases you’ll often notice in nutrition conversations are serving size and portion size. These may sound similar, but in fact they are quite different. And each term has layers to its definition to be considered. So, how are they different and why does it matter?

Serving size definitions are three-fold. 1) Serving size literally means ‘the amount you are served,’ as at a restaurant or Nanna’s house for Sunday brunch. 2) It also refers to dietary guidelines made by the USDA of recommended servings for each food group to assist in healthy decision-making for the average American. 3) Lastly, it includes ‘recommended’ serving size listed on nutrition facts labels by manufacturers or on recipes by authors of magazines, cookbooks, blogs, etc. 

My Plate dietary guidelines by the USDA.

A portion size literally means ‘the amount of food you actually eat.’ For instance, though you may order one pasta carbonara at The Cheesecake Factory, and the size you are served may be larger than what you’d need to feel satisfied, so you may eat half and box the rest. The portion size is more individualized. It is the portion of food you eat to meet your specific needs from day-to-day. If you are following a meal plan from a dietitian, the portions they’ve set out for you for your meals and snacks considers your individualized needs (your age, height, sex, weight, exercise/movement, medical conditions, lab values, ect.) If you’re eating intuitively, it may be more fluid and dynamic. For instance, you may find yourself eating a smaller dinner if you had a larger afternoon snack or you may find you’re authentically hungry for twice the portion of dinner you took the day before because you went on a long bike ride with a friend. In a nutshell, portion size is based on your unique health needs.

A portion size is the amount food you actually eat based on intuitive decision making or with support of a dietitian to honor your unique nutritional needs.

So what’s the best advice I can give you when navigating serving and portion sizes? Here it is:

  • Reference the USDA dietary guidelines, as needed, as a foundation.
  • Adjust the portion size to less or more based on your individual needs. If you’re unsure of your needs and/or this feels overwhelming or confusing, reach out to a qualified nutrition professional. (While Dietitians are the only title recognized by the government and insurance agencies as nutrition experts, a Diabetes Educator, or Doctor of Naturopathy or Functional Medicine may be some other options to consider. Be wary of those who call themselves nutritionists or health coaches who do not have at minimum a bachelor’s degree in the subject.) 
  • Scrap the serving size recommendations on Nutrition Facts labels. They just aren’t reliable. Food manufacturers have a long history of manipulating serving sizes to trick consumers into thinking their food is ‘healthier.’ They adjust the serving size to optimize the way calories, sugar, fat, protein, sodium, fiber,  vitamin, or mineral content appears to the consumer, in hopes you will think buying their product is a good choice. Sorry not sorry, but in no world is eating ⅓ cup of Ben and Jerry’s or 6 tater tots a normalized serving size for an average adult. 

Scrap the serving size recommendations on Nutrition Facts labels. They just aren’t reliable.

So, how can we sum this all up? 

  1. Serving sizes from the USDA’s dietary guidelines are a helpful starting place, as they are made by nutrition experts for the average person. 
  2. Serving sizes from manufacturers are not reliable. 
  3. Portion sizes are unique to the individual and can be adjusted from the serving size, formed intuitively, or with the support of a nutrition professional. 

Using serving sizes and formulated portion sizes doesn’t go against mindful or intuitive eating practices, especially if you struggle to identify your body’s cues of what and how much to eat.

While intuitive eating is great, it’s not always realistic for everyone. Using serving sizes and formulated portion sizes doesn’t go against mindful or intuitive eating practices, especially if you struggle to identify your body’s cues of what and how much to eat. If this is the case for you, they can be especially useful. Overall, serving sizes and portion sizes can just be another tool to keep in your self-care toolbox. 

With Kindness for You Body,

Lindsay Midura, RDN, LD, RYT

Anti-Diet: A Political Revolution

 

“Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”- Naomi Wolfe

Something I try to constantly conceptualize with my clients is that rejecting diet-culture is more than just beneficial to their mental and physiological health; It is a courageous and rebellious act against a system that oppresses women and girls. Women have been told too often, since they were very young, that they need to look, dress, behave a certain way in order to live within a male-centric culture. To be good, but not too good. To have opinions, but not too loudly. To work hard, but never over-shadow the male. To accept the male hierarchy in the family home. Rejecting dieting is fighting for autonomy, equality, and freedom in a way that stems from the deep roots planted by women rights activists over 150 years ago.

Some statistics:
36 women have held a US governorship since the first woman elected in 1925, while over 2300 male have been governors.
– Women hold only 23% of the total available seats in the US Congress AND in the national parliaments worldwide.

When you consider that women represent approximately half the global population, it becomes unavoidably evident that this disparity is the manifestation of gender inequality. And when women do brave the vitriolic political world, they put up with excruciating discriminatory abuse, infused with outdated, disparaging tropes about female intelligence and ability coated with a thick layer of physical objectification (negative or positive).

Body-shaming social messaging is used as a means of controlling and centralizing political power. When we are so transfixed by changing our bodies and overcome by our perceived imperfections, it leaves little space for us to do internal work, intellectual development, or political advocacy. On this International Women’s Day, I implore you to continue to widen the scope of your value beyond your appearance and even beyond your body by rejecting diet-culture.

Peace,
Lindsay Midura, RDN, LD, RYT

*Disclaimer: I am not anti-person who diets. I am just anti-diet. I respect all people who choose to diet, for whatever reason. It is out of my deep respect for humans that I am going to keep sharing with you all the extensive research that shows that dieting is ineffective for most and harmful for many.*

Easy Meal Prep: Taco Salad Mason Jars

Hi all! I have been getting a lot of great feedback about meal prepping! As promised, here is one of my easy recipes that is oh so delicious!

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What you will need:

  • 6, 32 oz mason jars
  • 1 bag of Spinach, kale or both
  • 2 packages, or about 2-2.5 lb, of lean ground turkey (antibiotic free if possible!)
  • 2 bell peppers, your choice which colors!
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 cans of black beans
  • 1 can of pinto beans
  • 2 small containers of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 stalks of sweet corn (or 1 can if fresh is not available)
  • 1 jar of salsa– I recommend Trader Joe’s brand Chipotle Salsa
  • 1 packet, or about 1oz, of Taco Seasoning Mix– Go figure I also recommend Trader Joe’s brand. I promise I don’t work for them, they just don’t add a lot of B.S. to their products, they keep it simple.

Step 1: Cooking the Turkey

  • Combine packages of ground turkey in a large bowl. Add Taco seasoning, one fourth at a time, by kneading the spices in to the turkey until it is thoroughly mixed.
  • Get one large skillet, add 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Heat skillet on stove top at medium-high heat until oil is hot.
  • Add ground turkey to skillet. With a spatula, begin breaking the mass of ground turkey apart in to smaller and smaller sections. (This will become easier as it cooks longer) Do this continuously, while stirring, until each piece is the circumference of a quarter or smaller.
  • Cook until turkey is browned, about 10-12 minutes. As a nutrition nerd I feel obligated to tell you that for safe eating, the internal temperature of the ground turkey segments should reach 165° F.
  • Allow turkey to cool.

Step 2: Cooking the Corn

(This can be done while the turkey is cooking to save time.)

  • Bring a pot of water large enough to fit both corn stalks to a boil.
  • Shuck corn.
  • Add corn to pot and boil for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit in water for 3 more minutes before removing.
  • Allow corn to cool.

Step 3: Preparing Everything Else

  • Wash all vegetables.
  • Mince the onion.
  • Mince or slice the peppers. (I like them in larger pieces.)
  • Once corn is cooled, cut the corn from the cob.
  • Open and drain the cans of beans. Mix the pinto and black beans together.

Step 4: Assembling the Mason Jars

Here’s where it all comes together! Really, it is just a matter of dividing the ingredients evenly in to 6 parts, but here is the rough amount of what you will use for each jar.

In order, from bottom to top in each jar:

  • 4 tablespoons of salsa*
  • 1/3 cup of beans*
  • 1/4 cup of corn*
  • 2 tablespoons of onion*
  • 1/2 cup of ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup minced, or 1/2 cup sliced peppers
  • 4-6 cherry tomatoes
  • Fill the remaining space with spinach or kale!

*  It’s important to keep these things towards the bottom because they are high in moisture content. This separates the moisture from the leafy greens and other veggies to prevent them from wilting or spoiling quickly!

Step 5: Enjoy!

You now have a taco salad for 6 days of the week! When you are ready to enjoy, simply tip the mason jar upside-down  and shake to mix in the salsa.

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P.S. Option to add avocado:

I like to slice half an avocado and add it in the day of, since avocados oxidize quickly once they are cut. Use one half and keep the other half, with the pit still attached (important! helps it to last longer) wrapped in cellophane for the next day. Sprinkling lemon or lime juice on the avocado will also keep it from browning as quickly!

Hope you all enjoy as much as I do! I’d love to hear feedback or answer questions so text, email or PM me! Want more recipes or guidance? Set up a nutrition consult with me 🙂

Happy eating,

Lindsay