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Critical Reload Nutrition Curriculum

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Lesson 10, Topic 1
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Portion Control: For Educators

Michael Bewley September 19, 2020


A portion or serving is the amount of food you put on your plate. Sounds simple enough, right? While many people use these words interchangeably, a portion does not always mean a healthy serving.

The Devil is In the Details

A portion is any amount of food you choose to put on your plate, while a serving is a standard unit of measuring food (i.e., cup, ounce, etc.). For example, a serving of cooked rice (according to the USDA) is only 4-ounces or about one-half cup. However, a portion of rice you put on your plate may be much more significant. For instance, each one-half cup of rice adds about 100-calories to your meal. Therefore, you may think you’re only eating one serving of rice when you’re eating two or three. As a result, you can see how the calories can add up quickly, causing confusion and consumption of extra calories.

How To Gauge Food Portions

A method we’ve found extremely useful to gauge food portions is to match serving size with everyday objects. For example, a medium orange is about the same size as a baseball and equals a fruit serving. One and a half to 2 ounces of low-fat, cheddar cheese is about the same size as three to four dice and equals one protein/dairy serving. While not all foods perfectly match visual cues like these, teaching yourself how to gauge food portions accurately helps you:

  • Avoid over/under-eating
  • Manage desired body composition 
  • Maintain energy balance

Portion Size and Serving Size Guide

To help you avoid super-sizing meals and become a better judge of serving size, download the Critical Reload Portion Size Guide, so you know how many servings are on your plate. Refer to this sheet often when recording your daily dietary intake in the Lose It! app. Before you know it, you will become a master at portion control.

Download Portion Portion Control Guide For More Info


Portion Control Guide 1.08 MB 80 downloads


Understanding Nutrition Facts Label

Understanding how to use a Nutrition Facts label can help you make healthier eating choices and identify nutrient-dense foods for a healthy diet. Knowing what’s in the foods you buy is key to stocking a nutritious kitchen. Yet food labels are not always easy to decipher. Below are some tips from the US Olympic Commitee’s Sports Performance Division for making the most of the information on food labels.

Serving Size

Serving sizes are standardized for foods. Pay attention to how many there are in a food product.

Total fat

Saturated and trans fats increase inflammation and slow recovery. Unsaturated fats like mono and polyunsaturated are more healthful and lower risk of diesease.


To much cholesterol can contribute to high blood cholesterol levels and be detrimental to health and performance.

Daily Value

% Daily Value does not pertain to athletes whose calorie burn is greater than 2000 calories per day.


Unless you have hypertension (high blood pressure), sodium is essential for optimal hydration before, during and after training.


Complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber can stabilize blood sugar, prevent insulin spikes and keep body weight and composition under control.


Lean proteins are necessary for muscle recovery after hard training sessions.

Vitamins & minerals

Vitamins and mineral dense food are important for high intensity training.

Consider The Ingredients

Foods with more than one ingredient must have an ingredient list on the label. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Those in the largest amounts are listed first. This information is particularly helpful to individuals with food sensitivities, those who wish to avoid pork or shellfish, limit added sugars or people who prefer vegetarian eating. 

Carbohydrates Are Athlete’s Primary Source of Fuel

Carbohydrates are an athlete’s primary source of calories and serve as fuel for all sorts of athletic events. What happens when you skimp on this precious nutrient? Fatigue sets in – hardly the hallmark of a great athlete. Worse, if carbohydrates are too low, the body often chews up its muscle. Ironic right? An athlete turns to weight training as a means to bulk up or add size, yet without carbohydrates – or enough of them – the body ends up tearing down and burning up its existing muscle mass. That’s where protein comes into the picture.


  1. Key To Success: Portion Control (n.d.). Retrieved from Joslin Diabetes Center
  2. Just Enough for You: About Food Portions (2015). Retrieved from National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
  3. Portion Control (2015). Retrieved from Mayo
  4. Portion Size Verses Serving Size (2015). Retrieved from American Heart Association.
  5. The Basics of the Nutrition Facts Label (2018). Retrieved from
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