The crazy world of food portion sizes

So, picture this – my husband was cooking curry and rice in the kitchen. I love a good curry, and I was excited! However, when he showed me the bowl, the portion of curry was significantly smaller than the rice. Confused, I asked him why. He explained that the box indicated it was two servings. 

When you’re on a diet, you want to make the most of every ounce of food within your eating window. That tiny portion of curry would have left me feeling unsatisfied and hungry for more food the entire night. However, today I found it amusing and realized how much I’ve grown in my approach to food.

It did get me thinking about food portion sizes though…….

By the way, if you’d like to listen to this one as a podcast episode, you can do that here…

The Quirks of Recommended Portion Sizes

Have you ever read the serving size on a food packet and wondered how it could possibly be realistic? Well, you’re not alone. With just a quick look through my kitchen I found these suggestions:

30g of a 55g bag of Doritos is one portion
There are 2.2 servings in a small bottle of an Innocent smoothie 
30g of cheese makes up a single portion
2 square of chocolate was one portion
The same curry sauce had different portion sizes, depending on the size of jar it was in!

None of these make sense, or would likely satisfy you!

It can be confusing and inconsistent. Is it any wonder we end up feeling dissatisfied after eating?

Let me tell you how ridiculous food portion sizes are and how our satisfaction and hunger levels can guide us more than what the packets say a portion is.

The government makes recommendations on portion sizes based on the ‘average’ person.  However, the average person doesn’t really exist. There is no allowance in these ‘recommended portions’ for variations in the population. There is no sliding scale that allows for your gender, height, weight, physical activity level, geographic area, or access to food.

The government’s portion size recommendations are based on a one-size-fits-all approach, but here’s the thing — we’re all unique individuals with different needs and tastes. How can they expect one recommendation to fit all of us?

Traffic light systems on food packets may be helpful for nutritional information, but they don’t address the real issue of satisfying portion sizes. They’re just another marketing tactic to make us buy more products.

Portion sizes are marketing tools

Portion sizes are quite often marketing tools. They can influence the way you eat and the amount you consume, leading to more purchases. Very manipulative, isn’t it? 

Looking back to dieting times, we were given portion sizes for foods that weren’t ‘free’ and it immediately felt restrictive. I was on a permanent hunt for food to fill the gaps and stop me feeling hungry. I was completely unsatisfied with my food, appetite-wise, physically, and emotionally. I lived in a place of restriction and desperation, waiting for the next meal so that I could eat again. 

That’s what portion control does to you. It is restrictive, prescriptive, and takes away any ability to eat intuitively.  

Now, do you recognize those feelings? Did you feel the same when you were dieting? Did you constantly spend your time trying to figure out how you could maximize the recommended portion? 

Intuitive eating and portion control

When you eat intuitively, your body will in itself ‘control’ the portions of food you consume. This isn’t about having control in the sense of weighing and measuring all of your food. It is about your body naturally determining what it needs and driving you to honour that. 

Intuitive eating is about your body intuitively suggesting to you what it wants coming in so that it can function well. It teaches you to listen to your body and let it dictate your food choices, portions, and intake. It empowers you to eat what your body truly needs to feel satisfied, physically and emotionally. Doesn’t that sound better than than being manipulated by recommended portion sizes?

Do we need to be guided by the packets? Do you need to be told that 20 little grams of chocolate is plenty for you? Do you need to be doing maths equations to work out how much of a bottle of smoothie you can drink?

Take it with a pinch of salt. Be guided by your body, your own satisfaction, and hunger levels because your body’s clever, and it’s in there – it’s all built-in. 

And if you are looking for support with that, come and join the Eat From Within membership. I’d love to see you there. 

Please note, this post is intended to be general information only. Every care has been taken to ensure that facts and figures are correct at the time of posting. As always, please seek the support of a registered professional before making changes to your diet or lifestyle⁠, or if you feel that you are affected by any of the topics discussed. 

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