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Portion Sizes vs. Serving Sizes – What’s the Difference?

Portion sizes and serving sizes can be the same, but most of the time it is much different.

As Americans, our portion sizes have steadily increased for years. Our perception of what a serving size should actually be has been warped by the food industry – giving us “more value” for our money. To me, value is not quantity, but quality and I believe that’s how everyone should view it.

hamburgers and friesfast food

First, let’s look at the difference between portion size and serving size.

A serving size is a measured amount of food that is assumed to be eaten in one sitting. Think:

  • 1 slice of pizza
  • 1/4 pint of ice cream
  • 12 potato chips

A portion size, however, is how much food is actually eaten. Like:

  • 1 whole pizza
  • 1 pint of ice cream
  • The whole bag of chips

See? Totally different beasts.

In order to have the ability to properly judge what we’re actually eating, I personally believe a food scale is the best way to go.

I mean have you ever measured out an actual serving size of peanut butter?

It’s the saddest sight I’ve ever seen, but it’s reality. We need to learn the amount of food we’re eating to avoid too many calories and hinder our weight loss efforts. That’s all there is to it.

Correct Serving Sizes

I use my food scale every day. Peanut butter, cooked meat, almonds, pistachios, I measure everything that goes in my mouth that isn’t already portioned. I have a full set of measuring cups at work that I use when I’m not at home. It’s okay if people think I’m crazy – it takes a little bit of crazy to have lost 70lbs+ and I’m just getting started.

You can use your own hands if you’re really being stubborn and don’t want to be inconvenienced by measuring or weighing. I don’t like that method because not everyone’s hand is the same size and the portion sizes we need aren’t really too different, but anyway.

Meat and fish like chicken, ground beef or turkey, salmon etc.

Serving Size: 3oz
Portion Size: One full palm

Fruit like apples, grapes, watermelon, pineapple etc.

Serving Size: 1 medium piece
Portion Size: Size of fist – (3″- 4″ in diameter)

Leafy greens like lettuce, kale and spinach.

Serving Size: 2/3 cups
Portion Size: Technically 2 handfuls, but eat as much as you want

Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, potatoes, asparagus etc.

Serving Size: 1 cup
Portion Size: One handful

Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios etc.

Serving Size: 1/4 cup
Portion Size: Technically 2 handfuls, but eat as much as you want

Cheese like cheddar, provolone, mozzarella etc.

Serving Size: 1.5oz
Portion Size: Index finger

Whatever way you slice it, please take the time to measure serving sizes. Without measuring and tracking, we can under estimate how many calories we eat every day by up to 30%. That’s enough to offset any exercise we’re able to squeeze in.


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