What is the difference between portion size and serving size.

There is a difference between portion size and serving size.

A serve size is a set amount stated in the dietary guidelines and it does not change. For example, the Australian Dietary Guidelines states that one serve of grains/cereals = ½ cup of cooked rice. Serving sizes are also noted on nutritional labels.

In order to have a healthy eating pattern and meet your nutrient requirements, food selection guides and dietary guidelines indicate how many serves to eat and from which food group.

For example, the dietary guidelines may state that for your age and gender you must consume five serves of grains/cereals per day. Therefore one cup of rice would equate to two of the total five serves per day.


A cup of rice in a bowl

serving size

A portion size is based on how much someone eats. For example, one 250ml cup of cooked rice as part of a meal is considered as one portion.

Note: when compared to the standard serve size in the Australian Guide to Healthy Eatingone 250ml cup of cooked rice is two standard serves of cooked rice.

This example shows the difference between portion size and serving size.

How can we alter energy intake by manipulating portions?

How can we alter energy intake by manipulating portions?

Evidence suggests that restricting portion size is good for reducing energy intakePeople consume a similar number of food items regardless of the size of the food item. Therefore, when food is chopped up into smaller pieces people will consume a smaller amount and this reduces total energy intake.

      • Chopping up food into smaller pieces may also help reduce the amount of food eaten in one serve and will decrease total energy intake.

Evidence also suggests that people eat more food when the food is served on a large plate.

      • It may also help to downsize the dinnerware that you use to serve food on as well as the serving utensils used to serve.

Familiarise yourself with the recommended serve sizes as per the Dietary Guidelines of the country in which you live and look at the number of suggested serve sizes per day. Then start by using measuring cups to see what a 1 cup or ½ cup serves look like. It may also be helpful to portion out food before you eat so you don’t overeat. For example, portioning out 20 nuts rather than eating them straight from the bag.

Log Book: Portion vs serving size


Now that you know a little more about portions and serving sizes, we would like you to complete another log book activity.

      1. Find a packaged food in your fridge or cupboard that you eat often (and that has a nutrition information panel). Before looking at the nutrition information panel, serve up a portion that you would usually eat.
      2. Measure this portion either using kitchen scales or measuring cups or spoons.
      3. Record this in your log book.
      4. Now, have a look at the nutrition information panel, find and record the serving size e.g. 45g or ½ cup or 2 pieces, and how many kJs per serving.
      5. Compare this to the size of the portion you served up earlier to see how your usual portion compares to the serving size.
      6. In your log book, record the number of kJs in your portion size.



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