What Are Appropriate Portion Sizes for Your Meals? You Might Be Surprised

What Are Appropriate Portion Sizes for Your Meals? You Might Be Surprised

It’s sometimes irresistible to pile your plate sky-high with meatballs, mashed potatoes, or mac & cheese when there’s a feast staring at you on the dinner table.

You may be able to find that second stomach, and pack in all that extra deliciousness, without giving a thought to how many serving sizes you’re really consuming. More often than not, you’re eating two, maybe even three times the recommended portions for a standard, healthy meal.

Is there a way to tell how many servings you’re swallowing down?

“It’s very tricky. A lot of the times, we think of the plates we eat off of as proper portions but that doesn’t mean that’s the amount an individual serving is,” warned Andrea Miller, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Dietitians of Canada.

“It’s OK to get more than one serving at a time but it’s easy to get out of hand. The way we eat pasta in this country is as a meal and not a side dish. It’s about two or three cups of spaghetti at dinner with some sauce, some meat, and a slice or two of garlic bread. That’s eight servings of grains in a meal.”

The following infographics will give you general guidelines on what an average size serving looks like, and how many servings you should target per day. Adhering to this advice will put an end to your unhealthy, overeating habits!


Miller strongly advocates to her clients that they make fruit a part of their regular, daily snacking (typically two times a day). Something like an apple after lunch or grapes with nuts and cheese after work easily slides into your schedule.

A serving of vegetables should be included in every meal as well. Throw down some veggies in your next sandwich (a sandwich with a side salad is ideal) for two servings right there, and then grill some veggies to compliment your lean meat dinner.

“By the end of the day, that’s already five servings. Half of Canadians don’t even get this much fruits and vegetables in their diets now,” Miller said.

Experts advocate for six to eight servings of grains a day, but that figure’s not set in stone. The serving frequency is based on other variables, particularly age and stage of life. A growing teen may need more grain fuel, a child may need less, and adult servings can depend on how active their lifestyle is.

Fifty percent of your grain intake should be whole grains – look for brown rice, whole grain pasta, cereal, and breads. Whole grains are packed with minerals and carbs, and take longer to digest, making meals more satisfying and filling.

This is one category where it’s easy to get carried away and overeat, so keep a close eye on your intake. When you’re eating pasta or rice, side bread or pita – while they’re seen as standard sides – aren’t necessary since that food group’s been covered. Replace them with veggies instead.

Meats you should be targeting are lean cuts of red meat, skinless poultry, and fatty fish like salmon or trout. These curb away from fattier meats, but trim visible fat wherever possible, too.

Summertime is extra dangerous when it comes to overeating – who can resist another dog or burger hot off the grill? If you can, stay disciplined and limit your plate to a protein or two.

Despite the bad fanfare fat gets, it’s an important component to any diet. There isn’t much wiggle room when it comes to fat; for example, two servings of olive oil, about two tablespoons, already meets the quota.

Dairy doesn’t provide much flexibility either, in its two to three serving recommendation. Try to portion dairy smartly. Say you’re topping your salad off with cheese – three slices aren’t going to seem like much. Grating those slices, however, will spread the wealth and give the illusion there’s more cheese than what’s there.

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