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  1. Seligson, Frances H. PhD, RD


Nutrition professionals often must deal with 3 different sets of serving size standards when teaching appropriate portions to consumers. Understanding the rationale behind each may help to identify a way to use only 1 set for all nutrition education purposes. The current reevaluation of the Food Guide Pyramid offers an opportunity to work toward harmonization.


Nutrition professionals are challenged with teaching what constitutes an appropriate portion. The existence of 3 different schemes used by nutrition professionals for communicating standard serving sizes complicates this task. These serving size schemes are the Food Guide Pyramid (Pyramid) developed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1 the Exchange Lists for Meal Planning/Weight Management (Exchange Lists) developed by the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association, 2,3 and reference amounts customarily consumed (RACCs) for nutrition labeling of foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 4


One step toward improving the communication of an appropriate portion is to harmonize serving size standards. Nutrition professionals could then teach appropriate portions from a single set of serving sizes. However, can serving size standards be harmonized? The answer is not straightforward, because each serving size scheme is based on a different rationale. This article describes the rationale behind the serving sizes for the Food Guide Pyramid, Exchange Lists, and RACCs and compares their standards for several foods. It also considers whether 1 set of serving sizes can be used for all nutrition education purposes.