Serving Sizes

PH02765_The following article is a small excerpt from one of my books. I hope you’ll want to learn more and let me help you to get into the best shape of your life.

Before I talk about serving sizes and how they can help you to get into your desired shape I’d like to give you a few thoughts.  In 1991 a little over 12% of North Americans were considered obese, and now in 2001 that figure has almost doubled.  Why?  Is it because the portions you receive in fast food stores have doubled?  Well before you always had the option of ordering twice the amount of food.  Now all you have to do is order the super size.  Basically the fast food restaurants are only providing what the customers are asking for, and at the same time providing a platform for you to overeat.  But is this the only reason for the rising rate of obesity?

Is it the invention of the computer, which has made us lazy and therefore contributing to our weigh gain?  Statistics tend to show otherwise because obesity seems to be higher in cities were computer ownership is lowest.  What about the growing number of people who have stopped smoking?  They tend to gain weight after quitting because they eat more to satisfy their oral needs.  Although this is true and that in over 25 cities tested obesity rose 55 percent, however in 25 cities were smoking increased, obesity rose even more to 59 percent.

I believe we are starting to believe that no matter how fat or unhealthy we become that modern medicine will be able to help us to live longer, so it doesn’t matter what we eat or do, a magic pill will come along sooner or later and make everything better.  After all look at the success of the Human Genome Project, and all that it has to promise. Years ago if you thought about eating a bag of chips a night, or a scoop of ice cream, and that you could possibly add 10 pounds to your weight, you chose not to do it.  Now with the Non-fattening chips and low fat ice cream, you think nothing of devouring a bag and maybe 2 scoops of double chocolate before bed.  You still will gain 10 plus pounds but you can rationalize it because it was low fat and ‘oh well’ sooner or later modern medicine will take away what you have added.  This thinking is backwards, because who knows when or even if this magic pill will come along, and even if it does, will it be too late?  We must get back to basics!

In our quest to get into shape and lose weight we can often lose track of one of the basic, very fundamental resources that we have to guide us, and that is the food guides that are set out by the government.  In them they state that we should eat between 5 to 12 servings of grain products, 5 to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables, 2 to 4 servings of milk products, 2 to 3 servings of meat and 3 to 4 servings of fats and oils.  Seems quite easy, but what exactly is a serving?  And why is there such a difference in servings required?

Well for starters, women and older adults, who typically need fewer calories, should choose the lower serving numbers.  Teenage boys and active men can eat the higher number and children, teen-age girls, active women and sedentary men should choose a serving size in the middle.

Now you just had a muffin for a snack.  Does this count as one grain serving?  Probably not…you see most commercial muffins can add up to about 3 to 4 servings, yet we think of it as one.  Just think of all the extra calories you are getting and thinking you are following the food guides.  In today’s competitive fast paced world, we are bombarded with ‘Super size’ this and ‘30% more’ that.  As serving sizes get bigger our desire for larger food portions is also growing and so are our waistlines.  We may be trying to follow a low-fat diet, yet were eating more calories.

So what is a serving?  Well on some packaging labels they will tell you what a serving size is.  I just looked on a Super Size bag of Potato chips, and they stated the serving size was 12 chips, yet how may of you would sit down and probably eat 2 or three times that if not the whole bag.  One serving is 5 ritz crackers, 16 wheat thins, 55 goldfish, one cup of raisin bran, or ¾ of a cup of Life cereal.  Try to measure your serving sizes based on what they say on the packaging labels.  If they don’t tell you then you can use the following as a guide;

  • 3 ounces of cooked meat, poultry or fish which works out to be     the size of a deck of cards or audio cassette tape.
  • One cup of cooked rice, pasta or vegetables is about the size of your fist or an ice – cream scoop.
  • One and a half ounces of cheese is about the size of four stacked dice or the size of your thumb
  • One tablespoons of mayonnaise, peanut butter, or salad dressing looks like a ping-pong ball or ice cube.
  • One ounce of nuts is about what you could hold in your cupped hand.
  • One Ounce of bread looks like that of a CD case.

If you can visualize the above references when thinking of serving sizes, hopefully this will help you to reduce your overall calories.  After all an extra bite here, or gulp there can add up…Do you know that most bags of Microwave popcorn are actually 3 servings?  And if you drink one cup of orange juice for Breakfast instead of the serving size of ¾ cup you’ll actually be getting 25 extra calories?  Even though these calories are non-fat, they are still extra calories and they do add up.

We have all heard the secret to getting into great shape and losing weight is eating right and exercising.  Most of us may have an idea of what we’re doing, but sometimes we just need an extra boost or reminder of what we need to do.  So what is eating right?  Well for starters it’s eating from all the food groups in balance and getting our proper amount of daily calories required to maintain our bodies.

I’d like to go through the food groups and give you some ideas of what serving sizes are as well as calories, but for a more detailed list you can find most foods in a good food guide or check out my book ‘Get Fit Stay Fit’ for the help you need.

SWEETS AND FATS (3 – 4 servings)

You should try to avoid or use this food group sparingly, because they can add a lot of calories and fat and have very little nutritional value

Butter 1 tablespoon 100 cal Canola Oil 1 tablespoon 120 cal
Corn Oil 1 tablespoon 120 cal Cream 2 tablespoons 100 cal
Light Cream 2 tablespoons   90 cal Sour cream 2 tablespoons   60 cal
Cream Cheese 2 tablespoons 100 cal Margarine 1 tablespoon 100 cal
Mayonnaise 1 tablespoon 100 cal Olive Oil 1 tablespoon 120 cal
Peanut Oil 1 tablespoon 120 cal Safflower Oil 1 tablespoon 120 cal
Sesame Oil 1 tablespoon 120 cal Honey 1 tablespoon   60 cal
Jam 1 tablespoon   50 cal Maple Syrup 1 tablespoon   50 cal
While sugar 1 tablespoon   50 cal

MILK, YOGURT AND CHEESE (2 – 4 servings)

Consuming from this food group will provide you with a good source of protein, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals.

Milk 1% 1 cup 100 cal  Milk 2% 1 cup 100 cal
Milk skim 1 cup   80 cal Milk whole 1 cup 140 cal
Yogurt (lowfat ) 1 ½ oz 140 cal Yogurt (non fat) 1 cup 130 cal
Blue Cheese 1 ½ oz 150 cal Brie 1 ½ oz. 140 cal
Cheddar 1 ½ oz 170 cal Cottage Cheese 1 ½ oz. 110 cal
Feta Cheese 1 ½ oz 110 cal Monterrey Jack 1 ½ oz. 160 cal
Mozzarella Cheese 1 ½ oz 120 cal Pamesan Cheese 2 tbl   60 cal
Swiss Cheese 1 ½ oz 160 cal


In this food group you’ll find good sources of Protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc.  You should be careful to choose lean cuts of meat, and be careful of eggs, high fat nuts, and fried fish or seafood packed in oil.  Also try to avoid processed meats like bologna, salami, hot dogs, sausages and bacon, they are generally higher in fat.

Hotdog One 180 cal ground beef (lean) 3 oz 240 cal
Filet Mignon 3 oz 180 cal ground beef (reg 3 oz 250 cal
Ham 3 oz 130 cal Spareribs 3 oz 200 cal
Pork tenderloin 3 oz 170 cal Chicken Br. (skinless) 3 oz 140 cal
Chicken breast 3 oz 170 cal Ground Turkey 3 oz 200 cal
Turkey wt. (skinless) 3 oz 120 cal Cod 3 oz   90 cal
Lobster 3 oz   80 cal Salmon 3 oz 150 cal
Shrimp 3 oz   80 cal Tuna(canned/water) 3 oz 100 cal
Tuna – fresh 3 oz 120 cal Black beans ½ cup 110 cal
Kidney beans ½ cup 110 cal Pinto beans ½ cup 120 cal
Refried beans ½ cup 135 cal Tofu 3 oz   90 cal
Egg White One   15 cal Egg Yolk One   15 cal
Almonds 1/3 cup 280 cal Cashews 1/3 cup 260 cal
Peanut Butter 2 tbl. 190 cal Peanuts dry roasted 1/3 cup 280 cal
Sunflower seeds 1/3 cup 270 cal Walnuts 1/3 cup 210 cal

VEGETABLES (3 to 5 servings)

Vegetables are a good source of Vitamins A and C, folate, Iron, magnesium, and beta carotene.  You should be careful when you eat vegetables that you don’t fall into the trap of putting on sauces, dips and dressings that are full of fat and add a lot of extra calories.

Green pepper One med.   20 cal Broccoli One stalk   50 cal
Carrot One med.   35 cal Celery Two stalks   20 cal
Cauliflower ½ cup   12 cal Corn One med. 100 cal
Cucumber 1/3 med   15 cal Eggplant ½ cup   15 cal
Green Beans ½ cup   20 cal Lettuce 1 ½ cups   15 cal
Lettuce – Iceberg 1 ½ cups   10 cal Mushrooms 5 med.   20 cal
Onion ½ cup   30 cal Peas ½ cup   60 cal
Potato baked 1 med 160 cal Salsa 2 tbl.   15 cal
Snow Peas ½ cup   35 cal Spinach ½ cup   20 cal
Sweet Potato 1 med 130 cal Tomato 1 med   30 cal
Zucchini ½ cup   20 cal

FRUITS (2 – 5 servings)

Between 2 and 5 servings of fruit a day will help to give you a good source of carbohydrates, vitamins A and C and Potassium.  Generally all fruits are good for you but you should try to avoid fruits that are packed in syrup or fruit drinks, they are packed with sugar.

Apple 1 med.   80 cal Apricots Two   70 cal
Avocado 1/3 med   90 cal Banana 1 med 120 cal
Cantaloupe ¼ med   45 cal Grapefruit ½ med   45 cal
Orange 1 med   60 cal Grapes ½ cup   60 cal
Honeydew 1/10 med   45 cal Mango ½   70 cal
Papaya  ½   60 cal Peach 1 med   35 cal
Pear 1 med 100 cal Pineapple ½ cup   40 cal
Strawberries 8   45 cal Watermelon 2 cups   90 cal
Dried Dates 5 med 110 cal Raisins ¼ cup 110 cal
Apple Juice ¾ cup   80 cal Orange Juice ¾ cup   80 cal

BREAD, CEREAL, RICE AND PASTA (5 – 12 servings)

You should try to consume between 5 and 12 servings per day.  This will give you a good source of complex carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals.  Once again you should be careful of what you add to this group like sauces, spreads and butter.  They may help to add some flavour but they are high in fats.  Also don’t be fooled by the words low fat, this may be true but they make up for it with sugar and that adds up to lots of extra calories.

Rolled oats ½ cup 100 cal Brown Rice ½ cup   70 cal
White Rice ½ cup 111 cal Cornmeal ½ cup 120 cal
Baked Potato 1 med 160 cal Bagel ½ med 200 cal
Crackers Wheat Two   30 cal French Bread 1 slice 100 cal
Pita bread (white) ½ med 160 cal Rice cake 1 piece   60 cal
Tortilla (corn) 2 120 cal White Bread 1 slice   70 cal
Whole Wheat Bread 1 slice   90 cal Macaroni ½ cup 100 cal
Spaghetti ½ cup   90 cal Egg Noodles ½ cup 110 cal
Popcorn 1 cup   60 cal Potato chips 18 or 1 oz 150 cal
Pretzel 1 oz 110 cal Tortilla chips 18 or 1 oz 150 cal

So there you have a rough breakdown of the food groups and some examples of serving sizes and calorie content. So how do you apply this?  Well when planning your meals first decide what group you are in, if you are in the high end of recommended servings low end or in the middle.  And if you have figured out your daily calorie needs properly by either using the calorie counter on my web site or from my book, then it’s just a matter of going down the lists and planning on what you should be eating for the day and then adding up the calories to make sure you are getting the proper amount.  If your calorie calculations are too high then you may have to start to substitute lower calorie foods or here comes the tricky part….Increase your activity level to allow you to eat the higher calories you choose to eat.

I explain a lot of these techniques in my book‘Get Fit Stay Fit’.

I know you want to get in shape and look great.  Whatever your fitness goal…to slim down…gain muscle…tone your arms or flatten your tummy…I’m here to help you accomplish your goals and to improve your fitness level. If you have enjoyed this article and the many other free features on my site, and would like some more comprehensive information such as fitness books and CD’s to aid you in achieving your health and fitness goals, please visit my ONLINE STORE where you will find innovative natural health and beauty products to help you become the BEST YOU CAN BE !