• Stephanie Dorfman, MS, RD

Serving Size and Portion Size - Also Known as the Food Police

How were serving sizes and portion sizes developed? Why are they just leading you down a path to diet culture? Find out below!

First, A Little History Lesson

The first nutrition facts panel was presented on packages starting in May 1994. The first revision/update was finalized in 2016, and another update in 2020. In terms of serving sizes listed on the panel, before the 2016 revision, serving sizes were based on consumer surveys from when the first label was created (back in the 1980s). Thank goodness when the label was updated, so were the serving sizes and nutrition information.


The Difference Between Serving Size and Portion Size

Serving Size - the amount of food used to measure the information on the nutrition facts panel. Not "technically" advice on how much you "should" eat, but rather the amount of food people "typically" consume.

  • My Thoughts: yes I added the quotations myself, but only to highlight that the serving sizes listed on nutrition panels are NOT telling you how much to eat, but rather a literal mathematical calculation

Portion Size - not regulated by the government and usually comes from the advice of *hopefully* a registered dietitian.

  • My Thoughts: AKA portion sizes are extremely arbitrary and subjective and individualized

The Importance of Gentle Nutrition

The last principle of Intuitive Eating is "Honor your Health with Gentle Nutrition." It is the last principle for a very good reason. Until you heal your relationship with food, reject diet culture, and take down the food police, focusing on nutrition could turn into a diet (or what some people refer to as a "lifestyle change" - sneaky diet word!). How does this relate to serving sizes and portion sizes?? Welllllllll.....I'm glad you asked.


The Food Police in Disguise!

Using serving sizes or portion sizes as "guides" or "rules" to what and how much you eat steers you away from your internal hunger and fullness cues. Who says "x" cookies is enough for YOU? Or "x" cups of rice is the right amount for YOU? One of the best and "healthiest" things you can do for your mind and body is REJECT ALL FOOD RULES! Step away from rigidity and free your mind of calculations. I challenge you to do that and see how you feel mentally and physically.

**Of course I'm here for you to chat and listen if you need!!**

Also, download this free guide - 5 Ways to Unlock your Inner Intuitive Eater - for a jump start on rejecting the diet mentality and food rules!


So What's the Point?

Yes, the nutrition label has important information relating to serving size, nutrient density, and other factors depending on your individual health status, but it should not be the deciding factor for how much you eat! YOU know your body the best and what it needs. After the diet mentality is gone, you can start making food choices from a place of self-care and use nutrition information to your advantage rather than restriction. ALSO it's important to note that health is more than just food and exercise - and it's awesome because YOU get to decide what all of this looks like for you!

  • What is your definition of health?

  • How do you practice gentle nutrition?

  • What are you doing to take care of yourself and your mental health?

I personally found this blog post by Registered Dietitian, Rachel Hartley, to be super helpful!


Looking for more support? I am here to provide a safe space to listen and help!

Send me an email, schedule a free discovery call, or connect with me on Instagram.



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