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Keeping it in Portion Perspective

By Jeff, H3 Program Intern

When we finally come to that final motivation to embark on lasting lifestyle changes, many of us get into that mindset: “This is it, go big or go home this time.” What a fitting phrase right? However, this is where it gets a little shady because when it comes to nutrition we’ve go to stop applying that same principle. In this respect, bigger is never better and our environment is certainly not helping any.


Why is it, when we are out and about, in an airport or at a restaurant, the portion sizes become outrageously enormous? Mammoth muffins, bountiful bagels, plethora pizza slices – it’s unreal on how today’s portion sizes stack up to twenty year’s ago. Let’s put the past in perspective:  


  20 Years Ago Calories Today Calories
Bagel 3” inches 140 6” inches 350
Muffin 1.5 oz. 210 4 oz. 500
Pizza 2 slices 500 2 large slices 850


Obviously, we all just finished up a great portion controlled Thanksgiving, yet this is still an ideal time to update our perspective. With the holiday season almost in full-gear, there’s definitely going to be plenty more sweets on the horizon. It may not be the pumpkin pies this time, but various treats will be readily available and it’s not always easy to measure the exact portion size. Going along with our portion control theme, here are a few visualization techniques for understanding correct portions specific to several common holiday goodies.


– One square brownie should equal about one package of dental floss

– One slice of cake should equal a deck of cards

– One cinnamon roll should equal the size of a hockey puck

– One ounce of holiday candies should easily fit into the palm of your hand 

– One cup of cocoa equals eight ounces

– One cookie should equal roughly two poker chips

– One ½ cup ice cream should equal the size of a light bulb


Nobody wants to spend the holiday’s completely zoning out every treat, therefore by understanding what constitutes “a portion” we can help control the weight. In our H3 portion control class many guest learn the fundamental tips for managing portions. Today, I’ll just give you the top three and hope that the past comparisons and dessert portion visualizations guide you the rest of the way!


Top Tip #1:      Re-engineer your home

–          “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”

–          Buy snacks in single serve

–          Keep variety to a minimum


Top Tip #2:      Recognize the difference between a portion and a serving

–          Read all the labels

–          Refer to the H3 food pyramid


Top Tip #3       Eat more slowly and mindfully

–          Food will be coming at you left and right so take it easy

–          20 minute rule: Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed

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