How Do You Find The Right Portion Sizes For Your Body?

by Emily Harland, RDN, CSO, LDN

Last Updated: June 14, 2021

One of the most frequently asked questions we get as dietitians is: “How much should I really be eating?” This is one of the most confusing parts of finding the right nutrient balance for your body. If you have ever wondered if you should be following the serving sizes on the box or if you need to eat more or less than what is stated, this blog is for you!

When we think about eating healthfully, our mind often turns to what we’re eating rather than how much. However, what we eat and how much is equally important. We need to ensure we are consuming the right amounts of nutrients to adequately fuel our bodies.

Serving Size vs. Portion Size
Did you know that there is a difference between the serving size listed on a label and what is appropriate for your body? Serving sizes are the numbers that are typically found on a food label. These are standardized by the FDA based on the amount of food or beverage people typically consume, rather than how much of the item they should consume. In short: the serving size is not a recommendation of how much to eat or drink. On the other hand, portion sizes are individual to your body, needs, and hunger levels. It may surprise you to know that there is no such thing as a “perfect” portion size! A portion size simply means the amount of food that you choose to eat at a particular eating occurrence - that’s it!

Why Eating the Right Portion Size is Important
Taking the time to determine what portion sizes feel right for your body can make all the difference in how you feel daily. If you are consistently overeating, you may feel less than your best most days. You may also experience symptoms of overeating like unintentional weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and heart disease, to name a few. However, if you are consistently undereating for your body’s needs, you experience frequent cravings, hunger, low energy, muscle loss, and even nutrient deficiencies.

How to Find the Right Portion Size
The real question is: how do you find the right portion size? The answer is not that simple, as the amount our bodies require can vary from day to day, depending on our activity level, amount of sleep, hormones, etc. To get started with finding what feels good to you concerning portion sizes, we recommend listening to your body’s cues when you sit down for a meal. Check-in with your hunger and satiety signals – Identify when you usually feel hungry and what that feels like for you. Do you have low energy? Have a headache? Feel your stomach growling? Take note of this and recognize this as hunger.

If you typically feel overstuffed after meals, slightly reduce your portion size and see how this feels for you. If you find that you are hungry again soon after a meal, try increasing your portion size at the next meal and adjust from there. Portion size is so individual!

You may also want to take your daily activity into account. Are you exercising or frequently moving throughout the day? Or are you primarily sedentary? The more we move, the more energy we need. For example, you may notice that you feel hungrier on the days you exercise-- this is perfectly normal! You may notice a lower appetite on days when you are mostly sitting still or resting. You do not have to eat the same portions every day. Listen to your body, not the label.

Although this mindful method of eating can take some practice to hone, it is one of the most useful and important tools to master when you are working to become a long-term healthful eater. If you would like more help identifying the right portion sizes for your body, we would love to help you! Make an appointment with one of our Kroger Health Dietitians today!

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Emily Harland, RDN, CSO, LDN

Emily Harland, RDN, CSO, LDN

Emily is a passionate clinical dietitian who strives to make nutrition changes sustainable while improving peoples’ relationship with food. She makes every effort to get to know each one of her clients on a personal level to ensure whole-person care. Emily is specialized in nutrition for oncology and cancer prevention/treatment. She has expertise from diabetes and heart health to hormonal health and fertility issues. Emily is an avid indoor cyclist and loves spending time in the kitchen cooking up nutritious and energizing meals.