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Healthy Portions Are Growing More Elusive At the Dinner Table

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Healthy Portions Are Growing More Elusive At the Dinner Table

Many Canadians don’t know what constitutes a proper food serving. Do you?

Supersized foods make for supersized Canadians.

A new study from York University suggests that the average Canadian doesn’t know how much food they’re supposed to eat—so even if we’re being mindful of what we eat, chances are we’re overeating.

Consider these increases in serving size over recent years:

  • The standard dinner plate used in most restaurants has increased from 10 to 12 in (25 to 30 cm). Keep in mind that an additional couple of inches in diameter increases surface area exponentially on a circular plate.
  • In 1961 Americans consumed 2,883 calories per person per day. By 2000 this had increased to 3,817 calories.
  • Twenty years ago a muffin had 200 calories and was 1.5 oz (40 g). Today, the average muffin has 500 calories and weighs more than 5 oz (140 g).
  • Twenty years ago a bagel had a 3 in (7.5 cm) diameter and was 140 calories. Today, the average bagel is 6 in (15 cm) in diameter and has 350 calories.


What’s more, past research shows 69 percent of people will finish what’s on their plate, no matter the size. For example, most people don’t realize that a typical 8 oz (227 g) steak exceeds the recommended daily intake for meat and alternatives—let alone the 12 oz and beyond options!

Un-size-savvy Canadians

According to the study, many Canadians overestimate the size of one serving as defined in Canada’s Food Guide. Often, participants within the recent York study assumed one serving referred to the amount they would normally eat at one time. The majority of participants, after referring to the Canada Food Guide, mistakenly believed they would have to increase their food consumption by about 400 calories.

What is a serving?

  • tennis ball = 1 fruit serving
  • deck of cards = 1 meat, poultry, or fish serving
  • 9 volt battery = 1 hard cheese serving
  • palm of your hand = 1 grain serving
  • half a baseball = 1 vegetable serving
  • 4 stacked dimes = 1 fat serving

How much should we be eating?

Daily recommended servings for the average adult

Vegetables and fruit

7 to 10

Grain products

6 to 8

Milk products

2 to 3

Meat and alternatives

2 to 3


For more information on recommended daily food intake, read Canada’s Food Guide.

Health risks

Consistent overeating can lead to weight-gain and obesity, which increases the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Looking for tips on portion control?

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