NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


| Share

Right Size Your Portions

Right Size Your Portions


            No, it isn’t your imagination - portion sizes in restaurants, grocery stores, and homes continue to increase.

            In the 1950s, a Burger King¨ hamburger was 2.8 ounces and 202 calories. Today, a Burger King¨ hamburger is 4.3 ounces and 310 calories. In the 1950s, McDonald’s¨ offered only one size of fries, a 2.4-ounce portion with 210 calories. Today, fries come in orders as large as 7 ounces with 610 calories. The trend of large portion sizes applies to beverages as well as foods. In 1916, a bottle of Coke¨ was 6 fluid ounces. By the mid-1970s, the average portion size of sweetened drinks (soft drinks and fruit drinks) among Americans was 13.6 ounces. Today we have giant size drinks that have hundreds of calories.
            Large portion sizes at restaurants and other food venues now have a greater impact than ever before. In the past, eating out was a special treat; a large restaurant dinner on one night of the week was balanced by smaller dinners at home the other nights. Today, people eat out more often, so they are exposed to large restaurant portions more frequently. Several societal shifts—more women in the workforce, dual-income households and smaller household sizes—have increased the demand for foods prepared away from home.

            Research indicates that as children grow older, the proportion of meals eaten away from home increases. Among preschoolers, 18 percent of meals are eaten away from home; among adolescents, 30 percent of meals are eaten away from home.  Furthermore, as people grow accustomed to the larger portions of away-from-home foods, they serve larger portions at home

             Larger portion sizes encourage people to eat and drink more – no matter how hungry we are.  One study gave people a bag of potato chips for a snack and a subsequent meal each day for several days. The package size of the potato chips varied each day. People ate more chips when the package size was larger, however – and this is a “loud, in caps” however, they did not eat less at mealtime. Overtime, all those larger than life portions lead to weight gain as people consume more calories than they need.  


Suggestions to Right-Size Your Portions

  • Prepare and eat more meals at home. We tend to eat larger portions when we eat out.
  • Help children learn what a normal serving looks like. For example, measure cereal in the child’s bowl and discuss that a bowl of cereal and a serving of cereal can be different.
  • Divide the contents of a large snack package into smaller containers.
  • When eating out, avoid all-you-can-eat buffets, “value” meals, and other deals that promote overeating. Select restaurants that offer smaller portions.
  • Share restaurant meals or take part of the meal home.
  • Beware of mindless eating while watching TV. If you snack in front of the TV, put an appropriate portion of food in a dish, and leave the food package in the kitchen.
  • Grab a healthy snack if you are hungry between meals. It will prevent overeating at meal time.
  • You can worry less about large portions when you eat fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables take up lots of space on your plate without adding many calories.
  • Serve food on a smaller plate to make normal portions look bigger.
  •  Limit your favorite sweetened beverage by drinking from a smaller glass.




Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.