02 Jun 2011

Serving Size vs. Portion Size: What’s the difference?

Nutrition No Comments

by Michelle Mirizzi, MS, Registered Dietitian

Find out the difference between serving sizes and portions sizes. Choosing nutritious foods and keeping portion sizes sensible will help keep your family at a healthy weight.

One of the best ways you can help your child live healthy and maintain a healthy weight is to teach them what an actual serving size looks like. They can use this knowledge to make healthier choices when eating at school, having snacks or even choosing from a fast food menu.

Research shows that Americans are eating larger and larger portions. For example, twenty years ago a bagel was about 3 inches in diameter and 140 calories. Today’s bagels are about 6 inches in diameter, 350 calories and may count up to three or even four servings in the grains group. Let’s also compare a soda twenty years ago that was about 6.5 ounces and 85 calories. Today, an average soda is 20 ounces and can have 300 or more calories.

Serving sizes are often smaller than people think. In fact Americans under-estimate the calories they consume each day by an average of 25 percent. A recent poll revealed that 70% of us felt the amount of food that we eat at home and the amount we are served at restaurants is considered a “normal” serving size. People are unaware that the portion sizes have increased over the years. In fact, the standard size plate used in restaurants has increased from 10 ½ inches to 12 inches.

Servings and portions… What’s the difference?

Serving sizes are defined by the USDA Food Guide Pyramid as a standard amount used to help give advice about how much food to eat. It also helps us identify how many calories and nutrients are in a food. A portion is the amount of food that you choose to eat. There is no standard portion size and no single right or wrong portion size. However, knowing the size of a serving can help your child determine healthful portions. Let’s look at some examples:

You eat 2 waffles for breakfast

  • One serving from the Food Guide Pyramid is equal to 1 waffle.
  • So that means if you ate 2 waffles, you also ate 2 servings from the grains group.

Here are some other common portions and their respective Food Guide Pyramid serving sizes:

Common portions that people eat Food Guide Pyramid Serving Size Total servings per Food Guide Pyramid
1 bagel ½ bagel = 2 servings
1 English Muffin ½ English muffin = 2 servings
1 Hamburger bun ½ bun = 2 servings
1 cup cooked rice ½ cup cooked rice = 2 servings
1 cups cooked pasta ½ cup cooked pasta = 2 servings

In each food group, look at these different Food Guide Pyramid examples indicating 1 serving each. How do these compare with what your portions look like?

  • Grains
  • 1 slice bread, waffle or pancake
  • ½ bagel, hamburger bun, or English muffin
  • ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal
  • 1 cup ready to eat cereal
  • Vegetables
  • ¾ cup (6 fluid ounces) 100% vegetable juice
  • 1 cup raw, leafy vegetables or salad
  • ½ cup cooked or canned vegetables
  • Fruits
  • 1 medium apple, orange or banana
  • ½ cup fruit (canned, cooked or raw)
  • ½ cup (4 fluid ounces) 100% fruit juice
  • ¼ cup dried fruit (raisins, apricots or prunes)
  • Milk
  • 1 cup milk or yogurt
  • 2 ounces processed cheese (American)
  • 1 ½ ounces natural cheese (cheddar)
  • Meat and Beans
  • 1 tablespoons of peanut butter counts as 1 ounce
  • ¼ cup nuts or 20-24 almonds
  • 1 medium size egg
  • 2-3 ounces of poultry, meat or fish (2-3 servings)
  • ¼ cup of beans

Tips on how to visually estimate 1 serving size


Grains Group
1 oz. bread or 1 slice of bread CD case
10 French fries Deck of cards
½ cup cooked rice or pasta Computer mouse


Vegetables Group
1 cup raw leafy vegetables Baseball
½ cup vegetables Computer mouse


Fruit Group
1 medium fruit such as an apple or an orange Tennis ball or the size of your fist
¾ cup juice 6 ounce juice can (1 ½ servings)
½ cup chopped or canned fruit Computer mouse


Milk and Milk Products Group
1 ounce cheese Pair of dice or the size of your thumb
1 ½ ounces cheddar cheese 2 (9-volt) batteries
1 cup of milk 8 ounce carton of milk
8 ounces yogurt Baseball or tennis ball


Meat & Beans Group
3 ounces of meat, fish or poultry Deck of cards (3 servings)
2 tablespoons of peanut butter Ping–pong ball (2 servings)
½ cup cooked beans Baseball (2 servings)

Try these ideas to help control portions at home:

  • When your child is hungry and looking for a snack take the amount of food that is equal to one serving (refer to the Nutrition Facts label) and have your child eat it off a plate instead of eating it out of the box or bag.
  • Don’t be tempted to finish off leftover dinner the next day. Freeze leftovers as single servings so that you can pull it out of the freezer when you need a quick, healthy meal for your family.
  • Be prepared and have emergency snacks on hand if your family is running late and needs a quick snack. Make your own snack bags for traveling by reading the Nutrition Facts label and placing a single serving size into plastic bags.
  • Have your child measure out a single serving of food before sitting in front of the television or doing other activities that can distract him/her from realizing how much food is being consumed. This way your child will know exactly how much he or she is eating!

Serving sizes on food labels are sometimes different from the Food Guide Pyramid servings. For example, the serving size for beverages is measured in cups or fluid ounces. Whether it is milk, juice, or soda the nutrition facts labeling guidelines is 1 cup or 8 fluid ounces, which equals 1 serving size. However, the Food Guide Pyramid serving size for milk is 1 cup, but for juice it is ¾ cup.

So, even though the amount of 1 serving on nutrition facts labels and the Food Guide Pyramid may be slightly different it is still a great tool to help you and your child decide if you are getting enough or too much food each day. Encourage your child to get familiar with the serving sizes because smart eating is an essential part of growing and staying healthy!

03 May 2011

Back To School: Remembering Health At Lunch Time

Nutrition 1 Comment

With school starting, school meals are back on our “parents” to do “list. You want to make sure your child a healthy meal. After all, studies have shown that a nutritious breakfast helps children do better in school. We also ask you your child has lunch! Do you have a healthy lunch for your child? Did you give them money to buy lunch at school and cross fingers, they choose a healthy lunch? Do you buy pre-packaged, Grab and Go meals that cost more and are very healthy? This article will give you some specific ideas that make it easy to create meals school healthy and tasty to get your child to eat healthily.

Summer vacation, which always goes too fast. However, there is excitement in the air. His son is in a new and installed in his new master. Is connected with the families who have not seen during the summer and your child is happy to see old friends. It was noted the date of return to school at night in their agenda and have begun to examine the list of volunteer activities. Suddenly it hits you – a word I had forgotten since the end of last school year: LUNCH!

Want to prepare nutritious lunches for their children, but know it will not be easy. You want to provide healthy snacks or fast food and less balanced than their children eat. You’ve been here and remember some of the frustrations. Or pay for the cafeteria lunch and hear about the horrible food, or you discover that your daughter does not even take a bite of his sandwich lunch box and had a single bite of his apple. This is one of the reasons that some parents opt for packed lunches can be high in fat and sodium. Or maybe try a bag of chips – because it feels better knowing that your child has something in his stomach. Oh, yes, take your child to eat a nutritious meal may seem like a battle. But could it be? Really? With a little more easy, quick meal ideas, you can get your child to eat a nutritious meal without all the headaches!

First, give you a pat on the back to make nutrition a priority. It is important to teach children healthy habits, even when they are away from home. And schools are here to help! That is why Congress established the new guidelines require that school meals every school meal program with the federally funded (eg, the National School Lunch Program or breakfast) to develop wellness policies by 2007. (Check if your school has a policy of welfare). Wellness policy addresses nutrition and physical activity at school. Unfortunately, the politics of welfare is not enough when schools are struggling with small budgets for food service. Thus, fast and easy processed foods (think chicken nuggets and French fries) are also offered at the school.

I remember the advice a couple of families who have struggled with their school-age children. They have become so accustomed to eating pizza, hot dogs and fries at school that is all they would at home for dinner. I recommend packing a brown bag lunch at least twice a week to gradually introduce healthy meals. Give your child help you if healthy lunches is a family affair. He begins by trying to include healthy foods in the five food groups.

21 Apr 2011

Childhood Obesity Facts Which Could Save Your Child

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While we all are planning for a greener and brighter future, our children are tackling a new health dispute with rising obesity rates. Recent research shows that around 400 million people are obese in the world and around 10% of these are children. Children suffering from childhood obesity have a high possibility of emerging heart disease, diabetes and emotional trauma or depression. Here are numerous childhood obesity facts that can help your child better save your child’s life.

Though, people often assume that the only cause of obesity is too much intake of food but there are a lot of factors that could turn your child in to an obese. Childhood obesity can be caused by genetics, emotional trauma and illness. A lot of children start facing child obesity after their parents get divorce or if they suffer a loss of a loved one. Parents should monitor their child’s behavior after any hurtful event to make sure your child is dealing with their emotions appropriately.

Along with that, the dietary conditions also play an important role in childhood obesity. High processed, fatty food is cheap and does not require too much effort while preparing, whereas, fruits and vegetables are more expensive and not everyone can afford to buy the healthier but more expensive foods.

The health hazard in obese children is at far greater risk as compare to an obese adult because children experience the health risks associated with obesity, such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, arthritis etc. earlier in life and the longer a person is obese, the greater the risk is. Besides the physical danger in the obese children, there is also a prospective for psychological damage.
But the best advantage is that the parents can easily child obesity by making better choices. Cook tasty but healthy food for child and tell them the negatives of consuming large quantity of fast food, ice creams, chips and others. They can also encourage children and the whole family to exercise more. Not only will this make your child happy but it also makes them more active.
These childhood obesity facts are upsetting, but now that you how to help your child in childhood obesity treatment you can easily alter your lifestyle and you must!

21 Apr 2011

Helping Kids Transition Away From Toxic Foods To Healthier Nutrition Choices

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The science of Epigenetics explains that our lifestyle choices (environment) will determine our level of health and our risk factors for chronic illness. In fact, research has demonstrated that over 98% of all chronic illness (cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression & anxiety disorders, reproductive disorders, digestive disorders, etc.) is due to environmental factors, not genetics. This means that our choices in nutrition, movement and mindset will determine how healthy we are.

We are either making choices that meet our genetic requirements for health – choices that are pure and sufficient – or we’re making choices that move us away from optimal health and function – choices that are toxic and deficient.

We are living in a time when these chronic illnesses, once reserved for grown-ups, are now an increasingly common part of childhood. Teaching kids to make healthier choices is one of the most important skills we can teach them to insure a healthier, happier future.

When it comes to nutrition, the initial is on adding the “good things” first. In other words, making sure kids are getting the raw materials for health – things like protein, healthy fats and oils, vegetables, fruit and water. These foods become even more beneficial if they are “real” foods, whole foods, as non-toxic and fresh as possible, and much of it raw.

The second phase of making healthier nutrition choices is to begin reducing or eliminating some of the toxic offenders – things like high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors, trans fats and hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils, excess sugar, and processed refined grains.

The most common foods to shift from, if better health is the desired outcome, are: sugary &/or toxic drinks: pop, sports drinks, energy drinks, conventional juice; conventional processed grains: cereal, bread, pasta, crackers, chips, pastries; junk food, fast food, convenience packaged snack foods, fried foods, conventional dairy, conventional meats, modern soy foods, conventional dressings and sauces, and most diet and low-fat foods.

It can certainly be an enormous challenge to limit these things in our diets, but our health depends on it. I don’t believe that a “cold turkey” approach is the most successful tactic for the majority of us (although, if you can do it that way, go for it!). Instead, I recommend transitioning to fewer of these toxic choices over time, while focusing on adding health first.

Some transition tips that might make this process easier for a child to incorporate:

1)Always remember the goal – better health. Healthy people make healthier choices. It’s all about choices and consequences. Making healthy choices has very clear consequences. So does making unhealthy choices.

2)We don’t have to say “never” to the toxic foods (the “tasty toxins”) we enjoy. We can choose to eat or drink it less often, or have smaller servings of it. We can eat or drink something healthy along with the tasty toxin, making the whole meal or snack healthier overall.

3)Substitute or upgrade to healthier choices. For virtually every conventional toxic food out there, there’s a healthier version available now with fewer toxins in it. You can also make your own “treats” that have fewer toxic ingredients.

4)Don’t keep junk in the house or readily available. Make healthier choices more readily available. If you do keep junk at home, keep it frozen or someplace that is inconvenient and makes you think about your choice first.

5)Think beyond the 5 minutes of pleasure you get while eating or drinking that toxic choice. Think about the bigger consequences – maybe it’s weight gain, maybe it’s setting the stage for chronic illness.

6)One toxin at a time. If it’s pizza day at school, have the pizza (if you choose) along with some healthier choices. It sabotages our health to have the pizza AND the brownies AND the pop or juice that’s sold along with it. There are limitations of matter… the body will only put up with so much! Another example is birthday parties for kids. I’ve attended far too many now that offered a free-for-all for the young guests – toxic snacks, meals and multiple desserts. Stand back and ask, “Is this really necessary?” Pick your poison!

7)Each day, fill up with Health first. Kids need to understand the role they play in shaping their own health, now and in the future. We can teach them to be responsible with their choices, and give their bodies what they need before they consider adding toxins. In our house, this means that we get at least a couple very healthy meals and snacks under our belts before any toxic choice is even up for discussion. The body must receive its raw ingredients for health… otherwise, you can’t have health! As many meals and snacks as possible need to contain the highest quality possible protein, healthy fats & oils, vegetables or fruit and water.

8)Along the same line as adding the healthy choices first, I make every attempt to provide the kids with the healthiest choices first. I serve the morning fruit while they’re waiting for the rest of breakfast, or some raw veggies as they’re waiting for lunch or dinner (which contains even more veggies!). At a restaurant, I’ll order some veggies or a small salad to be brought out right away. And, if I know the restaurant falls short when it comes to nutritious menu options, I’ll feed the kids a “mini-meal” before we even get there – one with some healthy, clean protein and some fresh fiber (vegetables). It’s the same story if we’re attending a party or social gathering where healthy choices won’t be readily available. Fill up with health first. It’s not about “ruining their appetite” – it’s about NOT ruining their health!

9)Finally, after considering the consequences, if a child (or you, on behalf of your child) still decides to consume the toxic choice… then have at it! Enjoy the tasty toxin fully. Guilt or regret will only lead to stressful emotions and even bigger issues. Choose responsibly, knowing there are consequences and limitations of matter. We don’t to say “never” or live in a bubble! Each positive, healthy choice we make adds up. We can make a healthier choice in the next meal or snack.

The most important concept we can teach our kids about their health is that every choice matters. (That, and the fact that health is a matter of function… not just how you feel or look right now. It’s far deeper than that.) Their current level of health is the result of the choices they have made thus far. The choices they make today will determine their health in the future. Choose wisely.

21 Apr 2011

Child Nutrition: Help Your Child Be Healthy

Nutrition No Comments

The food your child eats is important not only now but also for the rest of his or her life. A small child is going to need various types of foods for energy to play, grow, and to build a healthy body. Muscles and bones are forming over the first fifteen years of life, and when eating the right types of foods and including smart nutrition your child is more likely to avoid sickness and to ward off some types of disease.

Your child’s nutrition is going to start with you. You child is going to see what foods you eat, and when you are more likely to eat them, and your child is going to build their own habits from those habits he or she sees you following. If you eat breakfast on the go, all the time, your child will feel this is normal and okay, but you should be sitting down to a breakfast every morning for good nutrition basics. Even if you are eating a bowl of cereal or you are enjoying a glass of juice, taking five minutes will encourage better eating habits.

Healthy beginnings start with fruits, vegetables and good portions of meats. The food pyramid is going to be important in the early stages of life so that your child will learn to eat many types of foods, and not only the foods they like the taste and looks of. Giving your child many options in life will help them pick foods that are better for them in the long run. Healthy children are not going to eat burgers and fries for every meal, but they will have a well-rounded life with nutrition builders such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and variations of these builders.

Teaching good habits for your child’s nutrition awareness will start with reading labels. Learn about what preservatives and additives are in some of the foods you are eating, and then talk about these with your child as they grow. Include foods that are all natural, or that contain very little preservatives for a solid start in their understanding of nutrition.