Servings vs Servings: What’s the Difference? | Sanford Cup

Portion sizes are found at the top of a nutrition label and are specifically measured amounts that are used to identify the calories and nutrients in a food. According to a Sanford Health Registered Dietitian, “A serving is a measured amount of food that reflects what the nutrition is in that particular amount. Examples of serving size can be:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 6-inch tortilla
  • 1 cup milk

Some packaged foods contain more than one serving per container, so keep that in mind when looking at the nutrient measurements on the rest of the label.

Serving size is not a recommendation on how much to eat, as a serving size on a nutrition label is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Since the majority of kids probably won’t consume 2,000 calories in a normal day, how do you know how much to serve?

You will want to eat or serve the right portion of food. A portion is the right amount of food for your child’s body, not too much or too little. According to our dietitian,A serving is the amount of food you choose to eat at one time. You decide which portion suits your body. A portion of food can be different from person to person or from day to day. For example, a serving of milk might be 8oz, which contains about 8g of protein. However, your child can drink 5 oz or 10 oz in one serving at a time.


Always remember this
no two bodies are exactly the same, so not all portions are the same. Measuring cups, spoons and scales are not necessary to determine portion sizes. For quick reference, you and your child can use your hands to help you decide portion sizes for your body, now and as it grows. For example, try one of these:

  • Serving of fresh fruit = 1 handful
  • Peanut butter = the size of a thumb
  • Whole grain cereal = 1 fist

As a reminder, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states“Your child’s stage of growth and development, age, appetite, and activity will all play a role in determining the right portion size for your child.”

Here are some tips to make sure your child gets enough nutrition at every stage of life:

  • Offer all food groups at each meal using MyPlate meal activity sheetincluding foods like grains, proteins, dairy products, fruits and vegetables.
  • Provide a variety of different foods from each food group. Discover our Food table for more ideas.
  • Lead by example by eating a variety of foods in front of your child to encourage nutritious choices.
  • Use “kid’s” plates and bowls to serve “kid’s” portions.

Remember that your child may not eat all the food you offer right away, but keep serving it because it can take up to 15 attempts to serve new foods before your child decides whether or not they like that food! And don’t forget: fed is better.

Want more? You might also like:

Understanding Food Nutrition Labels
Rainbow Snack Ramble: A nutrition follow-up activity for kids
Portion Size Poster Pack