Think Portions Not Helpings Advises LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  4/19/2005 10:28:31 PM

News You Can Use For August 2004 

Eating only 100 additional calories daily beyond your needs can lead to a weight gain of 10 pounds a year. With today’s larger serving sizes, it’s easy to consume 100 extra calories, and even more, warns LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

A study comparing common serving sizes with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Guide recommended portion sizes showed that cookies were as much as seven times standard portion sizes, servings of cooked pasta were often nearly five times standard portion sizes and muffins weighed more than three times standard portion sizes.

"Reading the nutrition label can give helpful information, but it’s important to use the information correctly,"Reames says.

For example, a cereal label may say a serving size is 1/2 cup. To check yourself, pour out your usual helping and measure it. Then, compare it to the label serving size. Many people are shocked to find they’re eating two, three, four or more times the amount on the label.

A recent study reported the amount of cereal eaten by adults was approximately twice the serving size listed on the box. This may be one place calories are sneaking into your meals.

Regular soft drinks packaged in 20-ounce or larger containers may show a fairly low number of calories per serving. The 20-ounce container, however, is supposed to provide 2.5 or more servings, and many people drink it as one serving.

Some 67 percent of Americans usually eat everything or almost everything on their plates, according to a 2001 survey by the American Institute for Cancer Research. Even lean young men who were considered able to regulate their food intake ate more when offered larger portions in a research study conducted by Dr. Barbara Rolls, Pennsylvania State University nutrition professor and author of "Volumetrics: Feel Full on Fewer Calories." They ate 10 ounces of a 16-ounce portion of macaroni. When offered 25 ounces, however, they ate 15 ounces, a 50 percent increase.

The LSU AgCenter offers a healthy weight program called Portions, developed by a team of LSU AgCenter Extension agents and registered dietitians. "Portions provides information on nutrition, physical activity and eating habits to help people adopt healthier lifestyles," Reames says, adding that more may be learned about it by contacting the extension agent in your parish.

For information on related family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:
Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329, or

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