Is Serving Size Important or Just a Suggestion? 

By: Joe Martinez, RPh, PDE, CMS, Founder and CCO, HMS

Contributor: Stephanie Wu 

I will admit, one of the biggest disappointments that most of us experience is digging into a box of crackers or chips and then discovering the dreaded writing on the back of the packaging: “Serving Size: 10.”

“Ten?! Ten crackers?!! That’s it??” More often than not, we overrule the serving size verdict and take it more like a guideline, not a rule

No big deal, right? Or wrong? Does serving size really matter? Should it be viewed as a rule, like maybe on prescription medication? Or is it more of a suggestion, that if you don’t follow, the health consequences will be minimal? 

First, let’s define two important food measurement terms: serving size and portion size.

The definition of a serving size is a standardized amount of food. It may be used to quantify recommended amounts, as is the case with the MyPlate food groups, or represent quantities that people typically consume on a Nutrition Facts label. 

Portion size is the amount of food you choose to eat. Whether it is less or more than the serving size, choosing to eat ¾ cup of nuts is different than eating ½ a cup.  It’s best to pay attention to the number that is on the packaging to determine serving size,

For example, some larger and surprisingly even smaller cans of soup may actually have two servings. This means that if you are eating the entire can of soup, you should look at the Nutrition Facts Label and double them by two. Yes, that’s right.  This is especially important for those watching their sodium, fat and calorie intake.

Serving size recommendations are not limited to bagged or canned goods. You can also find them for your core food groups like fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, and grains. 

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends the following serving sizes for people 50 or older: 

  • Fruits—1½ to 2½ cups
  • Vegetables—2 to 3½ cups
  • Grains—5 to 10 ounces
  • Protein foods—5 to 7 ounces
  • Dairy foods—3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Oils—5 to 8 teaspoons
  • Solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS) and sodium (salt)—keep the amount of SoFAS and sodium small
Following serving sizes is a good nutritional practice that can help you avoid or better manage common diseases including high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and certain cancers. 

Sometimes, we forget that foods like fruit can be high in sugars. Being conscious of this will help you in your dietary goals whether it’s losing weight, lowering your blood pressure, or just having a better balance. 

The biggest key is to be conscious of the serving size AND your portion size; while, knowing what a serving size is, and what it means going into your body. 

So the answer to the question? YES, serving size should be taken seriously, especially if you have a chronic condition.

I have diabetes and personally know just how important it is to be aware and follow nutritional instructions.

Yes, it’s time consuming, tedious and a hassle. That’s one of the reasons why I founded Healthy Meals Supreme. I wanted to take the pressure off of those who need or simply want to eat within specific guidelines.  We do the heavy lifting… shopping, calculations, measuring and cooking, so all you have to do is enjoy.

Here are some recommended Healthy Meals Supreme meals to try. You can find the nutritional information for each dish on its product page and the total nutritional value of all of your meals on the dynamic nutritional calculator that updates with each selection.

* Always check with your doctor or healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.

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