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The Difference Between Portion Size And Serving Size

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Shocking Example Of How You’re Eating More Than You Think

On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m sharing a shocking example of the difference between portion size and serving size for cereal.

Yes, we’re talking about something sweet and seductive, but no, we’re not talking about my girl Jess.

Jessica Gouthro


We’re talking about the amount of carbohydrates and calories you’re actually eating for breakfast vs. what the nutrition label serving size on the cereal box says.

Let’s get into it.

When most people go grocery shopping, they try to buy healthy. 

But they don’t always succeed. 


Most people are busy, which means most of their meals have to be quick.

And of course you always need to keep your kids happy. 

This means most of the food is processed, even though the marketing on the box says it’s “healthy”.

Due to portion sizes, even a somewhat healthier breakfast cereal option can turn into a full blown carbohydrate and calorie nightmare.

Let’s take a closer look at what I mean.

Comparing The Portion Size vs. Serving Size On The Nutrition Label

Now before we get started, in the comment section below, tell me how many calories and carbohydrates do you think is in a bowl of Raisin Bran cereal?

The Difference Between Portion Size And Serving Size

The serving size listed on the nutrition label of this box of Raisin Bran is 1 cup.

Based on this 1 cup serving size, Raisin Bran contains:

  • 180 calories
  • 43g of carbohydrates
The Difference Between Portion Size And Serving Size

But let me ask you this.

Do you think your actual portion size for a bowl of cereal equals the 1 cup serving size listed on the nutrition facts label?

Look at how small an actual cup is.

The Difference Between Portion Size And Serving Size

How many cups of cereal do you actually pour into your cereal bowl?

Here’s a cereal bowl from my kitchen.

The Difference Between Portion Size And Serving Size

As you can see, this cereal bowl is quite a bit smaller than what’s probably in your kitchen.

But even with a small bowl like this, here’s how much cereal it takes to actually fill the bowl.

The Difference Between Portion Size And Serving Size

It takes approximately 2 cups of cereal to fill this small cereal bowl.

That portion size is double the actual serving size mentioned on the cereal box.

But wait, we’re not done.

We Still Need To Add The Dairy Milk

Since you’re on a diet, you’re probably using dairy skim milk.

The serving size on the nutrition facts label for dairy skim milk is 1 cup.

The Difference Between Portion Size And Serving Size

Here’s how much dairy skim milk you’re probably using to cover the cereal

1 cup of dairy skim milk doesn’t even come close to covering the portion size of cereal.

We need to add more. 

Alright, 2 cups of dairy skim milk should be enough to properly cover the cereal.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 1.51.46 PM

2 cups of dairy skim milk contains:

  • 160 calories
  • 24g of carbohydrates

So let’s add this up to compare the difference between portion size and serving size in terms of total calories and carbohydrates.

The Difference Between Portion Size And Serving Size For Cereal

In your “healthy” breakfast, the actual amount of calories and carbohydrates is:

  • 520 calories
  • 110g of carbohydrates

The most shocking thing is these 520 calories are primarily comprised of 110g of higher glycemic carbohydrates.

But since there’s 12g of fiber in this portion of Raisin Bran, let’s remove that from the calculation and just call it an even 98g of digestible carbohydrates.

As you can tell, most traditional boxed cereal has a very bad macronutrient breakdown as well since 85% of the 520 calories comes from carbohydrates.

That’s a lot of carbohydrates.

Look at all of this sugar.

This Equals 24.5 Teaspoons Of Sugar

You're Eating More than you think

As you know, carbohydrates are broken down in the body into a form of sugar called glucose.

24.5 teaspoons of sugar is going into your bloodstream after eating one true portion of this “healthy” cereal,

Depending on how active you are, some of this sugar will be burned for energy, but whatever is not burned for energy, it can be stored as fat.

Bottom Line On The Difference Between Portion Size And Serving Size

If you must eat processed and packaged food, know your portion sizes.

Or just eat real food.

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Today’s Question Of The Day:

  • How many calories and carbohydrates do you think is in a bowl of Raisin Bran cereal?

Share your experiences in the comment section below.

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64 responses to “The Difference Between Portion Size And Serving Size

  1. Hey Brad>> what are your thoughts on having porridge for breakfast? I know
    it’s carbs but I do my workouts pretty early, maybe an hour or so after my
    breakfast, I’m just curious and in need of advice, thanks.

  2. Hey Brad – What is your feeling on doing whole food (vege and fruit)
    smoothies for breakfast? What is your stance on doing a cleanse or detox
    using the whole foods to clean you out? I figured the fibers would be a
    huge benefit.

  3. kashi go lean is BY FAR the best processed cereal for fat loss and its
    pretty good for overall health as well

  4. Hi Brad why eating too much bananas is not good for you? Thought it was
    good please share more info on bananas thanks

  5. This is my biggest pet peeve.. Those annoying green banners that makes
    everyone think its okay to eat as much as they want because its got fibre
    in it.. & there’s always a selection for children.. You even chose a
    healthy option for the video, imagine trying Frosties or Honey Nut
    Cheerio’s.. I despise the marketing company, not everyone is clued into
    nutrition and some mothers think they are doing right by their children by
    getting them this.. I could rant on for hours on this topic!

  6. The fiber slows down the digestion of the sugar so you’re not spiking your
    insulin as you would by eating all that straight table sugar. However I
    agree with the calories and over-consumption. I used to pound back 1 or 2
    bowls of raisin bran back in the days I was overweight.

  7. (I was overcompensating on purpose though) still a pretty dang shocking
    example. No wonder I was a chubby cereal-eating kid growing up!

  8. I’ve never eaten Raisin Bran so I don’t know that….. but I used to eat
    sugary cereals every single day, even when I decided to eat healthier,
    because I was just so used to it and I loved the taste. Also, I hated milk
    on its own so that was the only thing that made me drink it. I did manage
    to stop buying them completly 🙂

  9. I actually have been only eating 1cup of fiber one’s cereal. Once you
    measure it a few times it’s easy to eyeball it. Supposedly has 40% of your
    daily fiber for about 120cals.

  10. HA! I dont eat cereal. I always eat oatmeal and boiled eggs. and just half
    a tbs of brown sugar with cinnamon. for now im eating 1/2 cup of
    oatmeal(cutting) with water

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