Just What Exactly is a "Serving Size"?
Whether it is for something you purchase online or at your local grocery store, nutritional information on various food items is always based on a standard serving size. Suppliers of food products carried by Storeitfoods.com advise consumers as to how many "servings" are present in their various containers. But how should we interpret this?
The makers of Canada's food guide explain that "A Food Guide Serving is simply a reference amount. It helps you understand how much food is recommended every day from each of the four food groups. In some cases, a Food Guide Serving may be close to what you eat, such as an apple. In other cases, such as rice or pasta, you may serve yourself more than one Food Guide Serving."
It seems, then that we should be using serving sizes as guidelines.
Turning again to Canada's Food Guide, here are several examples that they provide of Food Guide Servings:
Vegetables and Fruit
- 125 mL (½ cup) fresh, frozen or canned
vegetable or fruit or 100% juice
- 250 mL (1 cup) leafy raw vegetables or
- 1 piece of fruit
- 1 slice (35 g) bread or ½ bagel (45 g)
- ½ pita (35 g) or ½ tortilla (35 g)
- 125 mL (½ cup) cooked rice, pasta, or couscous
- 30 g cold cereal or 175 mL (¾ cup) hot cereal
Milk and Alternatives
- 250 mL (1 cup) milk or fortified soy beverage
- 175 g (¾ cup) yogurt
- 50 g (1 ½ oz.) cheese
Meat and Alternatives
- 75 g (2 ½ oz.)/125 mL (½ cup) cooked fish, shellfish, poultry or lean meat
- 175 mL (¾ cup) cooked beans
- 2 eggs
- 30 mL (2 Tbsp) peanut butter
Sample Nutrition Guide shown to the right
Useful information, but...
Often serving size information is based upon minimal dietary requirements. In other words, what does it take to keep you alive and healthy on a day-to-day basis? We all need to include certain amounts of protein, dietary fiber, vitamin C and other vitamins and other such nutrients in our diets. It is worth noting, however, that most of us, even those who are careful about maintianing a "healthy diet," are also interested in food quantity as well as food quality.
Anyone dining out today, is likely to be greeted by plates full of food in which main courses and side dishes have all been served in what might best be characterized as very generous portions. We have come to expect and demand that, and potion sizes seem to have increased over time. As one observer has noted, "Along with our expanding waistlines, the sizes of our bowls, cups and plates have also grown over the years. Just look at antique dinnerware as a comparison. Plate diameters are about 2 inches (5 cm) smaller on old porcelain, whereas today's new sets of china include plates that may be mistaken for serving platters."
That 2000 calorie diet might be ideal, but not everyone wants to stick to a 2000 calorie diet (although perhaps it might be wiser for us to strive to do so). Consequently, when it comes to selecting foods for our food storage, we need to determine just what we want by way of servings. Will that suggested serving satisfy our hunger? And just how large is that serving anyway? What constitutes a serving for one supplier of freeze dried food, for instance, might be considered less than a full serving for another. The food for both might be both delicious and nutritious, and both companies might be totally honest in their opiinions of what they consider to constitute a "serving", but variations can and do exist. We need to be aware of that when making our selections.
We should also be taking into account the fact that individual needs can vary. A small child will not need nor want as much food as a full grown adult. A senior might be content with much smaller portions. An active man or woman facing a stressful situation, and working hard in an outdoor setting may require much more than a standard serving to ward off hunger and meet increased bodily needs. Those of us with those expanded waistlines perhaps should do some cutting back, but that might not be at the forefront of our minds when confronting an emergency. Then is probably not the best time to discover that our week's worth of food has somehow lasted us only four or five days.
Finally, be aware of what is in those servings. One individual has crticized one company's freeze dried entrees as being "unhealthy" with an over-abundance of high calorie, creamy pastas. That critic may not be taking into account the fact that emergency rations are often designed to be made up of high caloric foods. Many experts agree that such foods are the best ones to have on hand in such situations. If, however, you wish to avoid those high calorie foods there are many other choices. You'll find, for instance, that Storeitfoods' selection of long term storage foods includes many fruits and vegetables that have been packaged without the use of various additives. Supplement these with your own preserved foods so that you can have the most satisfying combinations of foods to meet your personal needs. Do a little experimenting so that before any emergency arises, you will be well aware of what reaally does constitute a "single serving" when it comes to you and your family. Note, however, that when you are speaking of servings you may actually be thinking of portions. Technically, they are not the same thing.
Portion and Serving - Not Necessarily the Same
From what has been said, it should be clear that we really should not be confusing portions and serving sizes. They can be the same, but they can also be very different. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has tried to clarify this point when they state,
"A portion is the amount of food that you choose to eat for a meal or snack. It can be big or small—you decide.
"A serving is a measured amount of food or drink, such as one slice of bread or one cup (eight ounces) of milk.
Many foods that come as a single portion actually contain multiple servings. The Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods—on the backs of cans, sides of boxes, etc.— tells you the number of servings in the container."
These, of course, are the kinds of things that need to be taken into account when we are planning our home and food storage.
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