Tara Tomaino, RD
T&B Nutrition Director
The serving size is listed at the top of the Nutrition Facts label and is based on the amount of food people typically eat. This information is garnered from nationwide surveys and is NOT a recommendation for how much should be consumed. For example, the serving size of ice cream has changed from ½ cup to 2/3 of a cup. This does not mean that eating more ice cream is recommended, it is a reflection of data from recent food recall surveys.
The portion size is the amount of food that you actually consume. Using the ice cream as an example, the serving size may be 2/3 of a cup, but if you eat 1 cup, then 1 cup is your portion size. Portion sizes of different food groups will vary based on an individual’s age, gender, activity level, health status, and goals.
It is important to remember that one package of food may contain more than one serving, so consumers should be aware of how many servings are in the package. For food packages that may be consumed in one eating occasion, two columns of nutrition information may be present. One column for the serving size and one column for the entire package.
Referring to the serving sizes is good practice when working on your nutrition. I recommend all of my clients get friendly with their set of measuring spoons and cups to get an idea of what different amounts of food looks like. For example, the serving size for peanut butter is 2 tablespoons, which when measured out, might look a lot different than the amount you scoop out with a spoon! Another example is salad dressing, the serving size is also 2 tablespoons, but you may be perfectly content with just 1 tablespoon, saving you half of the calories.
A registered dietitian can help you determine the appropriate portion sizes for you because everyone’s nutrition is unique to them and their goals.