Shape Up & Drop 10™

Step 8 — Size Matters When Eating Out

Step 8 is going to discuss a key challenge of eating out-how to take control of out-of-control portions. After all, it's not just what you eat but how much you eat that impacts how well you can manage your weight. Calories go up when portions get larger. That's why to keep your weight under control, it helps to control your portions. This is especially important when eating out as portions continue to grow to astronomical sizes.

In Step 8, we will show you how portion size affects the calories you consume when eating out. Choosing reasonable portion sizes can save you calories and will help you stay on track with your weight-management goals. The topics presented in Step 8 are:

  • Large portions are the norm when eating out
  • How to save calories by choosing reasonable portions at fast-food restaurants
  • Eating out wisely takes advanced planning
  • How to rein in restaurant portions
  • Homework assignment to bring it all together for you and your family

Large Portions are the Norm When Eating Out

With Americans spending half of their food dollars on foods eaten away from home, restaurants are eager to give customers what they want-more "bang (i.e., food) for their buck." supersized meals and fast-food "value meals" offer just that-lots of food at a reduced price. That's great news for your wallet, but not for your waistline. By eating large portions you're likely consuming more calories than you need-not just for the meal, but, possibly, for the entire day. In fact, it's quite possible to get a full day's calories from eating one supersized meal!

Let's Get Reasonable

Ballooning portion sizes are everywhere — in restaurants, fast-food chains and cafes, in "single-serve" packaged food products, even in recipes and cookbooks. Larger portions have become so common that it's changing many people's perception of what is considered a reasonable amount to eat at one sitting. Upping the standard for "reasonable" makes you more vulnerable to weight gain.

To combat this obsession with ever-growing portions, we need to think smaller. For example, look at the calorie difference when we downsize some popular fast foods.

Burger Serving Size Calories
Double Quarter Pounder® with Cheese9.9 oz+ (280 gm*)760
Quarter Pounder® with Cheese7.0 oz (199 gm)530
Cheeseburger4.2 oz (119 gm)330
Hamburger3.7 oz (105 gm)280
French Fries Serving Size Calories
Super Size®7.0 oz (198 gm)610
Large6.2 oz (176 gm)540
Medium5.2 oz (147 gm)450
Small2.4 oz (68 gm)210
Cola Serving Size Calories
Super Size®42 fl oz410
Large32 fl oz310
Medium21 fl oz210
Small16 fl oz150

For additional nutrition information, check their website at

Look at the savings: A Double Quarter Pounder® with Cheese, Super Size® French fries and Super Size® cola add up to 1780 calories. Wow! That one meal provides more calories than most people trying to lose weight need to have in a single day. Compare it to a hamburger, small French fries and a small cola, which provides a more reasonable 640 calories. Change the cola to a diet drink, like Diet Coke®, and you can cut out even more calories — 410 fewer calories by changing the Super Size cola to any size Diet Coke® and 150 fewer calories by changing the small cola to diet.

Pizza Hut
Pizza Serving Size Calories
Personal Pan® Pizza-Cheese1 pizza;263 gm630
Stuffed Crust Pizza-Cheese 1 large slice; 157 gm360
Thin 'n Crispy® Pizza-Cheese1 medium slice; 85 gm200

For additional nutrition information, check their website at

Look at the savings: Choosing one slice of Thin 'n Crispy® cheese pizza instead of one Personal Pan® Pizza with cheese saves you 430 calories. Even if you had two slices of Thin 'n Crispy® cheese pizza, you'll be eating 230 fewer calories than if you chose the Personal Pan® Pizza.

Taco Bell
Taco Serving Size Calories
DOUBLE DECKER® Taco Supreme®191 gm380
Taco Supreme®113gm220
Taco78 gm170
Nachos Serving Size Calories
Nachos BellGrande®308 gm780
Nachos99 gm320
Taco Salads Serving Size Calories
Taco Salad with Salsa, with Shell533 gm790
Taco Salad with Salsa, without Shell462 gm420

For additional nutrition information, check their website at

Look at the savings: Choosing a taco instead of the DOUBLE DECKER® Taco Supreme® saves you 210 calories. Having nachos instead of the Nachos BellGrande® cuts out 460 calories. Eating a taco salad without the shell slashes half the fat and saves you 370 calories.

+ oz = ounces
* gm = grams

Eating Out Takes Some Advanced Planning

Whether you're grabbing a quick bite to eat at a café or diner, or sitting down to a full course meal at a restaurant, it's important to be aware of how much you're eating. That begins even before you step into the restaurant or get your food at a nearby deli or convenience store. What you need to do is plan ahead. Follow these steps:

  1. Educate yourself on what a single serving actually looks like. If you don't already have them, consider buying a kitchen scale (or an inexpensive postal scale will do) and a set of measuring cups and spoons. Then weigh or measure standard single servings of foods you commonly eat. For example, weigh 3 ounces of meat or chicken, 1 ounce of bagel, 1 ounce of cereal. Measure 1 tsp of butter or margarine, 1/2 cup of cooked pasta, 1/3 cup of nuts. You can learn what's considered a standard serving size by reviewing the serving sizes given in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid. (Refer to the "Portion Control" tutorial for this information). The serving sizes listed on the Nutrition Facts panel of a food product can also give you an idea of the amount of food commonly consumed in one serving.
  2. Place a single serving of foods you often eat into a bowl or plate. Remember the size of the bowl or plate. Then keep a mental note of how much space the food takes up on the plate or how much it fills the bowl. This will help you estimate portion sizes when you're eating out.
  3. Now fill a bowl or plate with the portions that you usually eat of these foods. How do your portions compare to the standard serving size? Are they double the size? Three times the size? Half the standard size? Realize that it's OK to eat more than the standard size-if it's within reason. For example, a standard 1/2-cup serving of pasta is not that much for most people and is certainly smaller than the large portions you get in a restaurant.
  4. If you decide to have more than a single serving of food, be mindful of how much you're eating. If it were a large portion, maybe you'd want to balance it out by eating less at another meal. Or perhaps you're OK with an extra portion since you were very active during the day. However, if you're trying to lose weight, you may want to cut back on your portion sizes. Even small changes in the size of your portions can make a difference by the end of the day.

Keeping your portions in line with your calorie needs will help you maintain a healthy weight.

Rein In Restaurant Portions

Combine great taste with gigantic portions and you have a recipe for thwarting sensible eating. Instead, try the tips below to help you take control of runaway restaurant portions.

  • Fill up on lower-calorie, high volume foods. (You may want to review Step 1). Start with a tossed salad (go easy on the dressing), or a bowl of vegetable or broth-based soup (skip the cream-based soups). Have a glass of water, cup of tea, or a diet beverage before the entrée arrives. Order plenty of steamed veggies. Top off your meal with fresh fruit for dessert.
  • If you're a bread lover, decide to have only one piece. Go easy on the butter, or better yet, skip it altogether. Then move the breadbasket away from your reach or have it removed from the table.
  • Remember how a single serving of your chosen foods would fit on your plate. Keep that in mind as you're eating your meal, to help ensure your portions stay reasonable
  • When given a choice of portion sizes, choose the small one. With portions ballooning upward, a small portion by today's standards is likely sufficient, and probably not that small.
  • Choose an appetizer as an entrée, or try a soup and salad instead of an entrée. Ask if soup and half a sandwich is a menu option; if not, order the whole sandwich but take half of it home.
  • Share a large entrée with your meal companion. Do the same for dessert, if you don't want to pass it up completely.
  • Make your meal twice as nice. Have half at the restaurant. Ask for a doggie bag and enjoy the rest the next day.


  • It's not just what you eat but how much you eat that impacts how well you can manage your weight. Calories go up when portions get larger. That's why to keep your weight under control, it helps to control your portions.
  • Big portions are the norm when eating out. Supersized meals and fast-food "value meals" offer lots of food at a reduced price. But what's good for your wallet is not always good for your waistline.
  • With portions of foods eaten out growing larger and larger, it is changing people's perception of what is considered a reasonable amount to eat at one sitting. Upping the standard for "reasonable" makes you more vulnerable to weight gain.
  • When eating out, it's important to keep portion size in mind. When you think smaller and eat smaller portions, you'll save on calories. You can still enjoy the foods you like to eat-in reasonable portions.
  • Eating out wisely takes some advanced planning. Review the single serving sizes recommended in the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid. (Check the "Portion Control" tutorial for this information). How do your portions compare to these standard servings? At times, it's OK to eat more than the Pyramid standards-if it's within reason. Just be aware of how much you're eating so you can keep your portions in line with your calorie needs, and your weight-management goals.
  • Rein in restaurant and fast-food portions. Some ways to do this are: Choose small sizes instead of large sizes. Share an entrée or dessert with your meal companion. Ask for a doggie bag.

Homework Assignment

  • Go to the fast-food establishment that you most frequently visit and ask for the nutrition information brochure. Review the foods in the brochure, noting the serving sizes, calories, fat, or any other nutrient that is of interest to you, like sodium. Compare the large sizes of burgers, pizza, soda, or French fries, for example, with the small serving sizes and note the calorie savings if you chose the smaller-sized items. Add up the calories of all the items you would order for a meal and compare it to other meal choices. Or compare the difference in calories between the sizes (e.g., supersized vs large vs medium vs small) of the foods you want to order. Use the nutrition information to help you make informed and wise food selections.
  • If you have children, go to their favorite fast-food chain and ask for the nutrition information brochure. Review the information with them. Discuss the difference in calories based on size (e.g., supersized fries vs small fries) and help them choose foods that are healthier and reasonable in size. Even if your children are not overweight, this exercise can alert them to the hazards of eating supersized meals often and how choosing smaller servings is one way to help prevent becoming overweight later on.
  • Proceed to Step 9 of Shape Up & Drop 10™

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