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GR8NESS expert Expert Reviewed
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What’s Up with Those Serving Sizes? Test Your Knowledge [Quiz]

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Alright, let’s get something straight. A dictation of how much someone should eat is usually not my jam. It’s not an energy I like to feed into (no pun, unless you’re into it), but when it comes to serving size, we’ve all got some attention to pay. No one likes to hear that their preferred measurement of sustenance is “too much” or “too little,” but the reality is—serving sizes are in place for a reason.

That said, confusion about what it all means is common. How much do you know about serving sizes? Take the quiz.

What’s the Confusion?

We’ve got scary numbers slapped onto the back of our favorite goodies, which are themselves their own beast. Then we’ve got outlines and marks to hit pertaining to the amount of each food group we should eat per day. Then, a projection of daily caloric intake comes into play.

That’s quite a lot to unpack if you’re just reaching for a snack, trying to silence your belly on a lunch break, or thinking of heading out to a dinner date.

Nutritional information can feel daunting, to say the least. And while I like to believe health institutions do their best to break it down, I can agree that for a lot of people, it’s not easy to understand. I’d venture to say it’s mostly because of the varying ways we receive this information, with perhaps a sprinkle of the tendency to look away when convenient.

Why look away, though? In the end, what you choose to fuel your body with is your choice, and no one should dictate that. But the other side to it is that no one else will have to deal with that choice the same way you do. With all of the scary health concerns that can arise from a poor or insufficient diet, isn’t it worth understanding the facts, if nothing else?

In the name of being nutritionally informed, let’s sift through it. Shall we?

Aspects to Consider with Serving Size

First up, let’s break down the scope of what “serving size” can mean. It’s both a blanket term as well as a reference to a specific, calculated number. The ambiguity of it is what tends to leave confusion.

FDA-Regulated Nutrition Labels

There is a lot to know about how numbers came to be on the back of packages. Before the 1970s, food labels had an alternate focus in mind than today. The birth of packaged foods at the turn of the 20th century brought all sorts of debacles with container sizes and the contents within them.

By the seventies, the FDA began to focus more on getting information about food to the public and required that certain foods be labeled. In the 1990s, interest in sodium, sugar, and fat contents began to explode. Eventually, manufacturers were required to adhere to nutritional labeling for all products.

Portion Distortion in Goods and Restaurants

The primary key to understanding serving size is first understanding how it relates to portion size. They are different things, which is confusing because semantically, we consider how much we eat to be the “serving” we choose.

However, it’s the complete opposite. The serving refers to one thing, while the portion size refers to how much you serve yourself and eat.

Now, if you pick up a nutrition label, you’ll easily see a number that reflects a serving size. Contrary to misconception, this number is not an advisory of how much to eat. It’s also not a reflection of how much one should opt to eat.

It’s a reflection of how much people do eat, according to representative survey data. Food surveys monitor consumption rates, and base food servings on what the average population consumes.

Nutrition labels use this information as a way to provide consumers with a close approximation based on how much the majority eats. That said, you’ll often find that there are several serving sizes in one unit, which then forces consumers to do the math if they’re interested in knowing the facts. This is one way that portion distortion occurs.

Another is when we’re eating food that are not packaged, and therefore—do not contain a label. AKA, delicious restaurant food. Restaurant portions are skewed immensely, often providing far more than what the recommended serving sizes are (which are, again, not the same as food labels anyway).

Making Sense of Recommended Serving Sizes per Food Group

Moving away from cryptic food labels, we’ve got the actual recommended serving sizes, which are more synonymous with portion sizes. It’s not that all nutrition labels are unreliable or obsolete. They are important for displaying the contents of what is inside a product, but they’re less helpful for determining how much of something you should eat.

What is helpful—are the recommended serving sizes for respective food groups. However, note to take these with a grain of salt. Serving sizes are detailed and updated by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to how much each person should eat each day. There are general recommendations based on age and sex. For example, one projection concerning adults 50 years of age and older recommends the following:

  • 2-3 cups of veggies
  • 1 1/2 -2 cups of fruits
  • 5-8 ounces of grains
  • 3 cups of yogurt
  • 5- 6 ½ ounces of protein
  • 5-7 teaspoons of oil

However, note that this is for one specific group of people. For this reason, consider this information loosely.

If you’re looking for an accurate estimate for you, consider your lifestyle, age, genetics, and activity level. These are pieces of information that only you have and that are liable to change. Seeing a professional dietitian or nutritionist is best to determine what would work best for you.

Think you’ve got that all down? Take the quiz and find out.

 

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Amanda
GR8NESS Writer
Amanda is a GR8NESS contributing writer who lives in celebration of self care, and endeavors to approach all things with a student mentality. Her love for the study of self-development is rooted in fitness, holistic wellness, and skin care. She is an advocate for mental health; and hopes to connect others to their own way of daring to care.
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