The million dollar question: What is the solution to the obesity epidemic?

If there were just one answer it would be a simpler problem to address. But unfortunately, there are many components to a lifestyle that promotes overweight and obesity. Most certainly serving size is one of the factors to consider.

How portions have grown

The standard sizes we are served today have grown dramatically. The average portion size today is 4 times that of foods in the 1950's. Consider a cola used to come in an 8 oz. bottle and today 24 oz. or greater is the norm. What do you expect when you bake or purchase a muffin? A couple inches in diameter or one that barely fits in the palm of your hand?

Portion size of virtually all foods we consume have grown and simply put: bigger size = more calories. Even a slight increase in size may add 100-150 calories to your meal. Consider 100 calories extra per meal, 3 meals per day, 365 days per year. If we use the estimate that 3,500 calories = 1 lb. of fat, in one year that extra 100 calories per meal equates to over 30 lbs. of weight gain.

Why are American's waistlines growing? Reducing portion size will help!

Making change easier

There is certainly psychology around how we feel when served a meal. I have heard many people praise the large portions served at a restaurant for the great value received. And on the flip side, complaints about the tiny portions served at a more upscale restaurant.

There are simple things you can do to reduce the size of the portions you consume without feeling any pain from doing so. Try some of these strategies to make a dent in the size of your intake.

1. Eat off smaller plates and bowls.
2. Drink out of tall, skinny glasses rather than short fat glasses.
3. Serve out of smaller bowls.
4. Buy smaller packages at the store.
5. Serve food in the kitchen rather than "family-style" at the table.
6. Package half your restaurant meal to take home before beginning to eat or split a meal with a friend.

What is the right portion for you?

Knowing how much food you should consume to maintain or lose weight is the first step to getting on the right track. Take a look at what one serving equals to see how well you are doing.

One serving equals:

• Fruit: ½ cup chopped, 1 small piece
• Vegetable: ½ cup cooked, 1 cup raw or leafy
• Meat/Protein: 1 oz. lean meat, 1 egg, ½ cup cooked dried beans
• Grain: 1 slice bread, ½ cup pasta, 1/3 cup rice, ¼-½ cup cereal
• Dairy: 1 cup, 6 oz. yogurt, 2 oz. low-fat cheese
• Fat: 1 tsp. oil, 1 TB peanut butter, ¼ oz. nuts

What does one serving look like?

• ¼ cup = golf ball
• ½ cup = tennis ball
• 1 cup = small fist
• 1 oz. = one handful or matchbox
• 4 oz. fish fillet = eyeglass case
• 3 oz. portion of cooked meat = deck of playing cards
• 1 teaspoon = quarter or tip of thumb, 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
• 8 fl. oz. = 1 cup

How much do you need?

Now that you have a picture of what one serving looks like, how do you know how many servings you should have each day? Every person is different. Calorie needs depend on body weight, muscle mass, and activity level. Food choices will affect each person differently. You can get a general idea by using the information below:


Fruits: 1-1.5 cups
Vegetables: 1.5-2.5 cups
Grains: 4-5 oz.
Meat & Protein: 5-6 oz.
Dairy: 2-3 cups
Fats & Oils: 5 tsp.
Other Calories: 150-200 calories

Teen Girls & Women

Fruits: 2 cups
Vegetables: 2.5-3 cups
Grains: 5-6 oz.
Meat & Protein: 6-7 oz.
Dairy: 3 cups
Fats & Oils: 6 tsp.
Other Calories: 250-300 calories

Teen Boys & Men

Fruits: 2-2.5 cups
Vegetables: 3-3.5 cups
Grains: 7-9 oz.
Meat & Protein: 7-8 oz.
Dairy: 3 cups
Fats & Oils: 8 tsp.
Other Calories: 400-425 calories

Author's Bio: 

Lynda Enright, MS, RD, CLT is certified as a Wellness Coach and LEAP Therapist who partners with women who want to look and feel amazing by helping them lose weight and reduce inflammation which can cause fatigue, bloating, acid reflux, congestion, brain fog or achy joints. For FREE tips on how to lose weight and keep it off, visit