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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

Controlling Portion Sizes

Posted by Jenna Smith -

Eating less by controlling portion sizes is not a new concept for those wanting to lose or maintain a healthy weight. But what is the correct portion size, and is it the same for my preschooler or 11 year old?

First of all, a portion size may be different than a serving size. A serving size is a set amount, such as the serving sizes on the Nutrition Facts label. But a portion is simply the amount that you put on your plate, or in your bowl, or in your glass. For example, a serving size of cooked spaghetti noodles may be ½ cup, but you may portion yourself 2 cups! The key is to decrease these portion sizes and get them more aligned with a proper serving size.

Before you can understand serving sizes, you must first understand how much of each food group you need each day. It may differ between genders and age groups. For instance, 2 to 3 year old children only need 1 cup of fruit for the entire day. But children 4 to 8 need 1 ½ cups of fruit. Adult women between the ages of 31 to 50 also need 1 ½ cups, but adult men in the same age group require 2 cups of fruit per day. To find out how much you or your child needs, go to and click on each food group.

Once you know how much you need for an entire day, you can better understand a proper portion size. Most adults need between 5 to 6 ounces of meat each day. Three to four ounces of cooked meat or poultry is a proper serving size, and is the size of a deck of cards or small computer mouse. Many adults need about 6 to 8 ounces of grains each day. A pancake serving, for example, is one 3 ounce serving, which is the size of a cd. Think of a hockey puck and that's about the size of ½ cup (1 ounce) serving of cooked rice, pasta or potato. See to find out proper serving sizes.

Often times, we fill our small children's plates with too much food and get frustrated when they don't eat it all. Their tummies are smaller and don't require as much as teenagers or adults. For example, children ages 2-5 only need a 4 ounce portion of yogurt instead of 6 ounces and a ½ grilled cheese sandwich instead of a whole sandwich. But kids go through growth spurts and their appetites will vary so they will sometimes eat more or less of what is recommended. Don't be too concerned if your child isn't eating the exact amount he/she is supposed to; your pediatrician will track your children's growth. Just continue to offer a variety of healthy foods, such as the Italian Chicken recipe below!

Italian Chicken

6 (4 oz.) skinless, boneless chicken breasts

3 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons onion, minced

½ teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup tomato sauce

½ teaspoon rosemary

¼ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon basil

½ teaspoon oregano

  1. Wash chicken pieces, pat dry. On a sheet of waxed paper, dredge chicken in flour.
  2. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add chicken and cook 2 to 5 minutes on each side, turning occasionally until lightly browned on all sides.
  3. Using tongs, remove chicken from skillet. Set aside.
  4. In same skillet, sauté onion and garlic until softened. Add tomato sauce and seasonings. Using wooden spoon, stir well.
  5. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is reduced by half (about 3 or 4 minutes).
  6. Return chicken to skillet. Cook until sauce thickens and chicken is heated through.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Analysis per 4 oz. serving: 170 Calories, 4 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrate, 80 milligrams sodium, 27 milligrams protein

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