Are You Overeating? A Guide to Serving Sizes

Portions have become supersized over the years and consumers are no longer aware of how much food they are actually shoveling into their mouths. Knowing the proper serving sizes can help stop you from packing on extra calories as well as extra pounds.

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When contemplating a suitable serving size, the quantity of food should be based on your age, gender, level of physical activity and body mass index (BMI).The US Department of Agriculture has replaced the food pyramid with a new symbol that dictates the recommended servings for each food group – the dinner plate. As its name would indicate, this is a dish-shaped icon, divided into 4 sections, and labeled with the essential food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins. Although the dairy group is positioned to the side of the dinner plate, it's still included within the parameters of a well-balanced diet.

So why replace the pyramid? Nutritionists maintain that the pyramid was a misrepresentation of healthy eating, as it failed to differentiate nutrient-dense foods, like whole grains and fish, from empty-calorie foods like refined cereals and pasta.

The most notable changes the USDA has made emphasize that at least half of your grains should be whole grains (oatmeal, whole cornmeal, brown rice, etc.), and that half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. The new guidelines stress adding more “color” to your dish.

Instead of vague serving size suggestions, the dinner plate proposes: 3 cups of dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt), 2-3 cups of vegetables, 1.5-2 cups of fruit, 5-6.5 ounces of protein (fish, poultry, eggs, etc.), 5-8 ounces of grains (rice, cereal, pasta), and 5-7 teaspoons of sweets, fats and oils per day. Using these daily recommendations, you can start putting together more balanced meals.

Additionally, it’s really important to understand what a correct serving size looks like. Here are some cues to help you visualize how to eat the right amount.