What’s REALLY a Serving Size?


It’s funny that I didn’t crave ice cream during February when I stopped eating dairy. I thought for sure I’d have mad cravings for it. I found that I missed things like cream cheese and sour cream more than ice cream while I was doing the challenge. I also thought for sure that the moment the challenge was over I’d be dying for ice cream. Again, it took a few weeks before I finally wanted some!

I bought a carton of ice cream and it was just as amazing as always. Ice cream is the best. While I was standing at the counter dishing up dessert for Michael and I, I looked at the label. There were 12 servings in the carton of ice cream for 140 calories each. That’s around the range that I usually stick to. I almost never buy a carton of ice cream that is over 175 calories a serving. That’s just too high for me.


What got me thinking was this: Have you ever actually looked at a carton of ice cream and visualized how many servings fit inside of it? I was surprised that 12 servings fit in my carton and that made me pause when I dished up a second scoop. I realized that I was eating two servings and not one because there is no way I get 12 desserts out of that carton!

It’s easy to make mistakes like this, even when you’re a “seasoned” maintainer like me. I still struggle with serving sizes and it’s easy to get carried away with them! That’s another reason why I like the lower calorie ice creams. I usually end up having two servings and 220 calories for dessert is better than 400!!!


I’ve written about serving sizes many times before, but just to recap here you go:

M is for Measuring Mistakes

C is for Calories

How to Count Calories

Counting Calories and Serving Sizes

Serving Sizes

How to Lose Weight – Week Four

Measuring a serving size out will make a world of difference in anyone’s weight loss journey or maintenance. I am definitely not immune to it and need a reminder once in awhile to PAY ATTENTION TO THE SERVING SIZE.

QUESTION: Can you get 12 servings out of a carton of ice cream or is it more like 10? Or 8?

Author: Lisa Eirene

About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and Glamour.com.

29 thoughts on “What’s REALLY a Serving Size?”

  1. I stopped eating ice cream- even the low fat stuff. Total binge food for me. I was hooked on the sugar.

    I switched over to weighing food in grams rather than measuring cups (no junk food) during weight loss and maintenance.

    I know you know that you can make a mini-mountain out of a half cup measure! Mine would look more like Mt. Hood than a level half cup. And a half cup always lead to more eating for me.

    A good food scale cured all slippery slope measuring thinking. 🙂
    Karen P recently posted..Required Weight Transition Reading- Refuse to Regain

    1. Oh I totally know what you mean about the mountain of ice cream and bingeing. Ice cream was my trigger food for a long time. Sometimes I go through phases where I buy it often and it doesn’t stick around very long. Then I’ll go through phases where I won’t buy it for months. I really like the individual serving size ice cream containers when I feel like I might not be able to control the binge tendencies!

  2. Yeah ice cream is so tricky like that! I wasn’t a big ice cream eater to begin with but once i realized how tiny a “service size” was I realized it just wasn’t worth it for me, ice cream treats on sticks or in little cups tend to work better for me than trying to scoop such a small amount from the carton and being happy with it
    Robyn recently posted..Week 2=Done

  3. Most of the time if I want ice cream I go get a small cone or a tiny single serving sized ice cream. Sometimes we do end up with a bigger container of ice cream, and there is no way we get the correct amount of serving sizes out.
    Cindy recently posted..Randomly random

  4. I don’t eat a lot of ice cream. It’s not something I crave. I do like frozen yogurt and we bike for that quite often. I actually took a digital scale with me once to weigh their serving size because they touted the Only 8 as having 35 calories, which is does in a 1 ounce size – and they were serving 5 ounces! That way I could ballpark the calories from then on.

    I actually find that when I weigh stuff out, I don’t always get the specified amount out of the carton of anything. Not sure what is up with that. Occasionally it will be extra, but usually not.
    Lori recently posted..Taking the plunge

  5. I recently bought a pint of Coconut “Ice Cream” that was non-dairy and made with coconut milk. I was intrigued because I had a coupon. There were four 1/2 cup servings in that baby, but the servings were 240 calories each!

    It was soooooo good though. I have dishes that measure to the half cup, so I made sure to have the right serving size. It’s difficult for me, though, because I grew up eating big bowls of ice cream as a snack in the evening!

  6. I don’t buy ice cream very often…in fact, I don’t remember the last time I bought it, but I ate it at a dinner party a couple of weeks ago. And it was two scoops. Not huge scoops, but still more than just one serving!
    I ❤ 2 Eat recently posted..Simple Is Best

  7. I’d say that tub looks to be about a serving . . . for me anyway. Seriously, I rarely eat ice cream, but when I do I will eat an entire pint in one sitting. And more if I made the mistake of buying two pints.

    The serving sizes listed on food labels are unrealistic and ridiculous. They are not based on any sort of reality other than trying to keep the calories looking small. Serving sizes are just another mindgame, courtesy of the food industry.

    Trevor recently posted..4 Self-Help Myths Shattered, Crushed, and Stomped into the Ground

    1. You are not far off, Trevor. Back in the day a serving size of ice cream for me was also the entire carton. It was a very VERY hard habit to break. I didn’t eat ice cream for 2 years while I was losing my weight and it took a long time after I reached goal weight to allow ice cream in my house. I was nervous that I’d fall back into bad habits. Thankfully that hasn’t been the case in the last few years.

  8. 12?! Seriously? I’m impressed that you’d be getting 6 out of it normally! These ‘serving suggestions’ can be crafty little buggers, it gets to the point where you can’t eat because 1 serving of everything just doesn’t suffice.. Maybe that’s just ice cream though. Ever tried making your own ice cream? Maybe you could add an extra scoop to your serving calorie wise, depending on how you make it.

    Thanks Lisa!
    Nick Goodall recently posted..Why Exercise?

    1. I’ve never tried making my own ice cream but it’s something I’ve wanted to do–especially seeing so many recipes for your own frozen yogurt on pinterest. Have you made your own?

  9. Ha, 1. I just do not keep things like ice cream or chips in the house. I have 0 self control. When I am craving ice cream (which isn’t actually that often), I usually just by the little mini single-serving ones they have at the grocery store. It still amazes me that they are like 200+ calories for such a little container!!
    Logan @ Mountains and Miles recently posted..Race Report: Marine Corps 17.75k

  10. If I buy ice cream at the supermarket, it’s the good stuff like Talenti gelato. A spoonful or two is completely satisfying. I don’t buy it often because for me ice cream is a summer food. I like to go out for ice cream at the local dairy. I get the big 3 scoops in a cup and it lasts in the freezer for about a week. I just have a little every night.

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