Learn More About Portion Sizes

Ever heard of portion distortion? This is when over-sized portions of food start to look normal to you. People will eat whatever is on their plate without thinking about the number of serving sizes that are actually in front of them.

Portion Distortion Facts

According to Statistics Canada, our calorie intake has jumped significantly over the last several years. Did you know that two decades ago:

Food item

20 years ago


Coffee shop muffin

2.5 ounces (71 grams) and 210 calories

small muffin and coffee

4 ounces (113 grams) and up to 500 calories

large muffin and coffee

Chicken caesar salad

1.5 cups and 390 calories

small ceaser salad

3 cups and nearly 800 calories

large ceaser salad

Soft drink

6.5 ounces (192 ml) and 85 calories
small bottle of soda

20 ounces (591 ml) and 250 calories

large bottle of soda

 Source: Leslie Beck, CTV News external link

What’s a portion size?

A portion size is the amount of food that you actually put on your plate, which you plan to eat in one sitting.

For example, a sandwich with two pieces of bread is one portion but represents 2 servings of grain products since each slice of bread is one Food Guide serving.   

A large plate of pasta in a restaurant may provide 500-750 ml (2-3 cups) of pasta, which is equal to 4 to 6 Food Guide Servings. 

plate seperated into three portions, half vegetables, quarter grains & starch, quarter meat

How much should we eat?

How much you should eat depends on your age and gender. Canada’s Food Guide suggests different amounts of each food group.

For example, a child aged 2-3 should eat 3 servings of grain each day, while a child aged 9-13 should eat 6 grain servings daily. An adult aged 19-50 should eat between 6 and 8 grain servings daily, depending on their gender.

A Guide to Serving Sizes




One serving of:

Palm of hand
Cell phone

palm of hand

2.5 oz (75 g)


Size of fist
Computer mouse

clenched fist

½ cup (125 mL)

Medium Potato

Tennis ball


¾ cup (175 mL)

Hot cereal

Thumb tip

thumb tip

1 tsp (5 mL)


2 thumb tips

thumb tips - left handthumb tips - right hand

1.5 oz (50 g)


Both palms open

both palms open

2 cups (500 mL)

Vegetables (2 servings)

Source:  Canadian Diabetes Association external link and EatRight Ontario external link 

Tips to watch your portion sizes:

  • Get better at judging food portions, and knowing how much is in a serving size. To help you practice, try using measuring cups and spoons, or use the serving size guide below.
  • Put food on a plate rather than eating out of the container – we often eat more if we can’t judge the portion size.
  • Studies have shown that we will eat more when using bigger serving dishes. Use smaller plates and bowls.

Additional resources: