Ask Mickey: Proper Portions, or Quality vs. Quantity

12-3790_bamco_askmickey_webBon Appétit Management Company was founded in 1987 to cook restaurant-quality, healthy food from scratch for corporate employees, university students, and museum guests. Michelina, aka “Mickey,” the Italian mother of CEO Fedele Bauccio and COO Michael Bauccio, remains our inspiration.

At Bon Appétit, we know there’s a lot on your plate that you worry about, both metaphorically and literally. Making good choices helps you avoid unwanted pounds, work or study and sleep better, and form healthy eating habits that will help you live longer. That’s why we’ve gathered a team of Bon Appétit registered dietitians and chefs to offer you some Mickey-inspired monthly tips on “chewing the right thing.”

Send your questions and feedback to [email protected] or text (650) 308-9594.

Let’s face it. There’s a lot of food out there, and most of it comes in ever-bigger packages. Research shows that when given a fuller plate or a bigger package, most people will eat more … a lot more. And unfortunately, those foods available in super-size portions tend to be lower in nutrients and higher in calories. When is the last time you saw a giant bag of baby carrots on sale?

Paying attention to the right portions for the right foods will help you increase the quality of your overall diet, maintain a healthy weight, and stretch your food dollars to better-quality ingredients that taste fantastic and nourish you deeply. For example, for maximum nutrition benefits and minimal calorie impact, fruits and vegetables should make up the largest portion on your plate. It’s hard to go wrong by eating more roasted broccoli or apple slices! So hit the salad bar for healthy, delicious, and high-quality ingredients such as whole grains, fresh vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins.

When you’re hungrily opening up a big bag of chips, it’s tough to stop at a right-size portion.  So before you even start, read the nutrition information on the package’s label and determine exactly how many portions are lurking in there — and how many “extras” you’ll get if you choose more than just one portion: extra calories, sodium, added sugars, and unhealthy fats, for example. Measure out the portion you intend to consume into a separate serving bowl or dish, and put the package away, preferably somewhere out of sight.

Too self-conscious to break out some measuring cups at the next holiday party or ballgame? Learn to eyeball the recommended portion size. The quiz below will test how well you can translate proper portion sizes to the everyday-object equivalents. Visit your café’s page on and head to Curious > Nutrition for a Proper Portions Tip Sheet with more equivalents. 

Proper Portions Quiz

1. One serving of meat, fish or poultry should be about the size of a deck of cards, which is equivalent to how many ounces?

a) 1 ounce
b) 3 ounces
c) 5 ounces

2. One serving of a pancake, waffle, or lunch meat is 1 ounce, or about the size of what?

a) A compact disc
b) A record
c) A cassette tape

3. One serving of baked potato should be about the size of a computer mouse. True or false?

4. One serving of cheese is equivalent in size to about how many dice?

a) 8 dice
b) 6 dice
c) 4 dice

5. Making a salad dressing or roasting some vegetables? Which of these items has about the same volume as just one serving of olive oil:

a) Tip of your thumb
b) 4 dice
c) Baseball

Answers: 1-B, 2-A, 3-A, 4-C, 5-A 

More help: