How big do spruce trees get

8 Types of Spruce Trees for Your Yard

Spruce up your landscape! With cold-weather hardiness, evergreen beauty and a range of sizes and shapes, there's a spruce tree that's bound to work.

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What Is a Spruce Tree?

Spruces are tall, symmetrical conifer trees with evergreen needles attached individually rather than bunched like pine needles. While they resemble fir trees, spruces drop their cones intact, rather than dispersing seeds first as fir trees do. Denizens of cold climates, there are almost 40 species of spruce, many important forest trees harvested for pulp and paper products.

Only a handful of species are common in the nursery trade, but they include many diverse cultivars with sizes and features far different from the species.

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Blue Spruce

Blue spruce (Picea pungens f. glauca), also called Colorado blue spruce, is a beautiful tree with blue-gray needles. Being colorful and relatively drought tolerant, it’s a favorite of many homeowners unless placed in the wrong spot — it grows quickly to 60 feet tall and can overtake a small yard.

Dwarf cultivars grow slowly to 10 or 15 feet tall and are easily trimmed to the desired shape. “Montgomery” and “Fat Albert” are two popular cultivars.

Best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 8.

Culture: Full sun; rich, evenly moist soil.

Note: Blue spruce under stress are prone to a disfiguring fungus Cytospora Canker.

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Norway Spruce

As the name implies, Norway spruce (Picea abies) is a European native now common in North America. It’s large — up to 80 feet tall and 35 feet wide — and can grow three feet per year in the right conditions.

Fast-growing Norway spruce is a beautiful, graceful evergreen with pyramidal shape and boughs that become more pendulous with age. Many small cultivars are available including the popular bird’s nest spruce “Nidiformis” and “Pumila.”

Zones: 2-7.

Culture: Full sun; tolerant of wind and various soils.

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Oriental Spruce

Slower growing than the Norway spruce, Oriental spruce (Picea orientalis) can take half a century or more to reach 50 to 60 feet in height.

A dense conifer with lustrous, dark-green needles, it grows in an attractive pyramidal shape highlighted with pendulous branches. This graceful habit makes Oriental spruce an excellent specimen plant. Cultivars are even more intriguing: “Aurea” has golden yellow new growth; “Pendula” is a compact weeping cultivar.

Zones: 4-7.

Culture: Full sun; tolerates some shade and poor, stony soil; needs protection from strong winter winds.

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Serbian Spruce

With its narrow, pyramidal shape and drooping or sometimes ascending branches, Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) looks beautiful as a specimen or grouped together as a hedge. Slowly growing to 50 to 60 feet tall and 20 to 25 feet wide, Serbian spruce features green needles with a silvery underside that shimmers in the breeze. “Aurea” has yellow needles, “Nana” is dwarf and “Pendula” has drooping, twisted branches.

Zones: 4-7.

Culture: Part shade; deep, rich, moist soil that is well drained; benefits from protection from harsh winter winds.

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White Spruce

With its adaptability, white spruce (Picea glauca) can serve many functions in the landscape, from specimen to background plant to windbreak to privacy screen. The glaucus green color of the needles looks good paired with darker evergreens, and the mature size (40 to 60 feet tall and 10 to 20 feet wide) won’t overtake most landscapes.

Zones: 2-6.

Culture: Full sun but tolerates some shade; adaptable to wind and drought.

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Black Hills Spruce

Black Hills spruce (Picea glauca var. densata) is a variety of white spruce with much denser foliage. It has an attractive pyramidal shape and grows slowly to 40 feet tall by 35 feet wide, so it fits into more home landscapes than bigger forest trees. This is a good spruce for an exposed site because it is more tolerant of wind than other spruces.

Zones: 2-6.

Culture: Full sun to part sun; accepts higher pH soils.

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Dwarf Alberta Spruce

This is the spruce most urban landscapers turn to. Dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca “Conica”) is a cultivar of white spruce. Growing just two to four inches per year, dwarf Alberta spruce can take 25 to 30 years to reach 10 or 12 feet in height. With its dense needles, conical shape and pretty green color (blue-green on “Blue Wonder”), this spruce can be planted in front beds and even containers.

Zones: 3-6.

Culture: Full sun; moist, well-drained soil.

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Black Spruce

Not to be confused with Black Hills spruce, a variety of white spruce, black spruce (Picea mariana) is a separate species and one that is more tolerant of wet soils than other spruces. A slow-growing, tough tree, it reaches 30 to 50 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet wide. It has an interesting shape, too — pyramidal like other spruces, but with sweeping downward branches and a narrow, spire-like crown.

Zones: 2-6.

Culture: Full sun; moist, acidic soil.

Originally Published: April 22, 2021

Luke Miller

Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.

Spruce Trees for Sale -

Do You Know
Your Growing Zone? i Growing zones help determine if a particular plant is likely to grow well in a location. It identifies the average annual minimum winter temperatures across the U.S. provided as a map by the USDA.



9 Results

Name (A to Z)Name (Z to A)Price (Low to High)Price (High to Low)

  • Black Hills Spruce Tree

    $29. 95

    Growing Zone(s): 2-6

  • Colorado Blue Spruce Trees


    Growing Zone(s): 2-7

  • Cryptomeria Radicans


    Growing Zone(s): 5-9

  • Dwarf Alberta Spruce


    Growing Zone(s): 2-8

  • Dwarf Mugo Pine


    Growing Zone(s): 2-8

  • Fat Albert Colorado Blue Spruce

    $109. 95

    Growing Zone(s): 2-8

  • Norway Spruce Trees


    Growing Zone(s): 2-7

  • Sold Out

    Meyer Spruce Tree


    Growing Zone(s): 2-8

  • Sold Out

    Weeping White Spruce Tree


    Growing Zone(s): 2-8

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Spruce Trees – Buying & Growing Guide

by Mary Van Keuren | Gardener (30+ Years Experience) – last update on December 2, 2021

Spruce trees are members of the genus Picea, which includes about 35 species of trees and shrubs. They are an excellent choice for providing texture in the garden, as well as color that can range from golden-yellow to blue. Although some spruce varieties grow too tall for most gardens, there are a number of dwarf types that make an attractive addition to any landscape.

How to Grow Spruce Trees

How to plant spruce trees

Since spruce trees vary in size depending on the variety (blue spruce, for example, can reach 60 feet), check the tag on your sapling and follow recommendations for spacing if you are planting more than one. Spruce trees like sunny locations with well-draining, loamy soil. They can handle high winds once established, so you can use them as a hedge or windbreak.

Dig a hole two times as wide as the root ball and a little deeper. Mix a little compost, leaf mold, or other organic material into the soil at the bottom of the hole. Place the sapling in the hole so the top of the root ball is even with the top of the soil. Backfill (replace the dirt you removed from the hole) with the compost-enhanced soil.

Once planted, tamp down the soil and water the sapling well. Let the water seep in, then give your tree another drink. If you wish, you can build a low berm a few feet out from the trunk to corral water so the roots can take advantage of it.

How to achieve maximum results

Nurturing your spruce tree when it’s newly planted will yield maximum results in the long term. Site it carefully to take advantage of the sun. Your tree will thrive with six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Once planted, you can stake the sapling up with two or three short stakes for the first year or so. This is especially helpful if you’ve planted your tree in a windy site.

How to Care for Spruce Trees

Watering and nutrients

For the first year, water your spruce tree regularly. A good benchmark is one inch of water per week, so if it doesn’t rain that amount, offer it as supplemental watering. When the tree is established and growing robustly, it won’t need as much water, and a full-grown spruce won’t need any watering unless you are experiencing extreme drought.

Spruce trees aren’t heavy feeders. An acidic fertilizer for evergreens, or a fertilizer with fairly high nitrogen, such as 12-6-4, will do for a light feeding in the spring. You can supply many of the tree’s nutrient needs by mulching your spruce with a three to four inch layer of organic matter once a year.


Spruce trees are monoecious, meaning that each tree has both male and female flowers, or in this case, cones. Female cones have ovules, while male cones manufacture pollen that gets distributed by the wind to fertilize the female cones. The process of turning that pollen/ovule combination into a seed takes three years, after which the cones drop and release the seeds.


Spruce trees don’t need regular pruning. You can prune them for shape in the spring, cutting back branches to a lateral branch or bud. You should also prune off diseased or broken branches when they occur. Eventually, the lower branches may die off and you can remove them to create a cleaner line.

Pests and diseases

Diseases that impact spruce trees include cytospora canker, a fungal disease that can be managed by judicious pruning, and needle rust, another fungal disease that results in needle fall. Spacing trees properly and keeping the area around the trees clean can help with fungal diseases, as can the application of a general purpose fungicide.

Insects that bother spruce trees include the cooley spruce gall adelgid, the Easter spruce gall adelgid, and the spruce spider mite. Adelgids are relatives of aphids and can cause branch die-off and eventually the death of the tree. To control adelgids, spray your spruce with an insecticide in the spring and fall.

Types of Spruce Trees

1. Norway Spruce

Scientific Name Picea abies

Mature Size: Up to 130 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Light: Full sun

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining, acidic

Cultivars and Varieties: Picea abies ‘Gold Drift’, Picea abies’ Little Gem’, Picea abies ‘Acrocona’, Picea abies ‘Witches’ Brood’, Picea abies ‘Inversa’

White Spruce

Scientific Name Picea glauca

Mature Size: 120 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 2-7

Light: Full sun

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining, fertile, acidic

Cultivars and Varieties: Picea glauca ‘Pendula’, Picea glauca ‘Echiniformis’, Picea glauca var. Porsildii (Alaska White Spruce), Picea glauca var. Albertiana (Alberta White Spruce), Picea glauca var. Densata (Black Hills White Spruce)

3. Engelmann Spruce

Scientific Name Picea engelmannii

Mature Size: Up to 200 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Light: Full sun

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining

Cultivars and Varieties: Picea engelmannii subsp. Mexicana (Mexican Spruce)

Black Spruce

Scientific Name Picea mariana

Mature Size: Up to 90 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 3-6

Light: Full sun

Water: Average to high moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining, acidic

Cultivars and Varieties: Picea mariana ‘Nana’

5. Colorado Spruce

Scientific Name Picea pungens

Mature Size: Up to 75 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 2-7

Light: Full sun

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining, acidic

Cultivars and Varieties: Picea pungens ‘Edith’, Picea pungens ‘Koster’, Picea pungens ‘The Blues’, Picea pungens ‘Regal Chub’, Picea pungens ‘Baby Blue Eyes’, Picea pungens ‘Mrs. Cesarini’, Picea pungens ‘Glauca Globosa’

6. Serbian Spruce

Scientific Name Picea omorika

Mature Size: Up to 130 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Light: Full sun

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining

Cultivars and Varieties: Picea omorika ‘Nana’, Picea omorika ‘Pendula’, Picea omorika ‘Aurea’, Picea omorika ‘Peve Tijn’

Sitka Spruce

Scientific Name Picea sitchensis

Mature Size: Up to 300 feet

Hardiness Zone: 2-8

Light: Full sun

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining

Table of Contents

  • Spruce Trees – Buying & Growing Guide

  • How to Grow Spruce Trees

    • How to plant spruce trees

    • How to achieve maximum results

  • How to Care for Spruce Trees

    • Watering and nutrients

    • Pollination

    • Pruning

    • Pests and diseases

  • Types of Spruce Trees

  • 1. Norway Spruce

  • 2. White Spruce

  • 3. Engelmann Spruce

  • 4. Black Spruce

  • 5. Colorado Spruce

  • 6. Serbian Spruce

  • 7. Sitka Spruce

How to prune spruce?

Photo by the author, illustrations by Vera Manzhura.

So, let's cut Christmas trees! Let me tell you, there is nothing to be afraid of! The main thing is not to wait for the moment when you need a saw as a cutting tool. We will agree to do with secateurs or garden shears, and sometimes just gloved hands.

To begin with, I propose to decide on the goals and objectives of the upcoming event and think in advance, what result do you expect? What do you want from your tree? Pruning may be needed for a variety of reasons.

Reason #1 – Keeping a neat plant shape

Everyone knows what a spruce tree looks like when it's relatively mature – it's a fairly regular cone. If you have chosen a cone-shaped spruce variety, then it is advisable to observe the development of the plant in the first years after planting and “correct” all the branches that are out of the general context in time.

In the first years after planting, many spruce varieties with a cone-shaped crown may grow irregularly. The plant seems to be considering whether to grow in height this year, or is it better to “work up” the volume and take up more space in order to immediately cut off all the owner’s attempts to plant neighbors in the root zone. Such behavior, for example, often surprises everyone's favorite “Hoopsii” (“Hupsi”), as well as compact varieties of prickly spruce “Bialobok” (“Belobok”) and “Nimetz” (“Nimets”). By the way, the “Bialobok” variety is named so not because it becomes “white-sided” at the end of May, when it grows a young growth, but by the name of the author of the variety, Jan Białobok, who found it at 1939 year.

If you want your spruce to be more symmetrical, shorten or remove unsymmetrical branches. In the spring, you can completely remove the central growth of the branch if you notice that it is going to go beyond the shape you need. Did not have time to remove or shorten the branch in the spring? Then cut when it appears for that time. If you observe the plant immediately after planting and stop its attempts to "lose its temper" in time, you will not have to solve more difficult tasks of forming a neglected tree in the future.

Young plants often require tying to a vertical support for a couple of years and monitoring crown behavior. Sometimes at the top of the head, for various reasons, it does not wake up or the central kidney is lost. The usual reaction of spruce to this misunderstanding is to grow two or more parallel growing leaders. If you miss this moment and do not intervene in time, you will have a plant with two or more guides who will try to overtake each other every year. As a result, we will get a plant with an asymmetrical crown, and at the same time the danger of a break at the fork. To avoid such moments, every year in late May and early June, take a look at the top of your spruce. If you see that there are several tops, choose the most even and harmoniously located of the shoots, and break or shorten the rest. During this period, such work can be done simply with your hands, the shoots are still tender and break easily. At the same time, it is possible to correct the general shape - to break or shorten the increments that violate the symmetry of the cone.

I'll make a reservation right away. If you have just bought and planted a young 3-5 year old plant, you should not hone your skills as an aspiring topiary artist on it in the very first season. Let the tree take root well. But watch out for the crown right away!

All of the above applies primarily to medium and fast growing cultivars. Dwarf varieties with an annual growth of up to 10 cm, as a rule, do not require gardener intervention for quite a long time, with the exception of sanitary pruning and cleaning the inside of the crown.

If you didn't have time to correct the shape of your spruce at the beginning of June, you can do it in autumn. If the tree is already mature, then if you have a good eye, feel free to take garden shears and cut it over the entire surface of the crown, as you would cut, for example, a spirea bush, but not forgetting the cone shape. You can shorten the growth of the current year, or, if symmetry requires it, then last year's growth too. Spruces are quite flexible in terms of shearing and are good at awakening dormant buds in response to pruning. The photo below shows the prickly spruce “Erich Frahm” (“Erich Fram”) after the first pinching of young growth in her life last year.

This approach will allow you to quickly cope with cutting not even one spruce, but an entire spruce hedge, get some spruce branches for shelter or mulching other garden crops, and also protect your Christmas tree from possible intruders who are not averse to cutting down a vending Christmas tree to the New Year.

Cause #2 - crown compaction

A wide variety of spruce cultivars growing at medium to fast rates (from 15 to 50 cm per season) can become somewhat “loose” over time and begin to acquire some crown tiering. In order to anticipate such moments, let's try to compact the crown of our Christmas tree in advance. Let's start with observations!

Spruces are conifers that are capable of producing one wave of growth per season. Of course, there are some varieties that manage to give a repeated short increase in the second half of the summer, especially if the summer turned out to be rainy or long. For example, the well-known spruce “Conica” (“Konika”) and its closest relatives do this almost every year. These varieties are good because they completely independently cope with maintaining a super-dense crown.

In the Moscow region, for example, spruces begin to grow young shoots in late May-early June. At this time, spruce growths are soft, as if made of silicone, and young needles are pressed against the shoot. Try not to miss this moment. When the growths reach a length of 5–10–15 cm (depending on the growth rate of a given specimen), they need to be shortened.

The easiest way to work is with gloved hands, without the use of tools. In this case, the shortened ends of the shoots will look more accurate after the needles ripen. Of course, this recommendation does not apply to cutting large volumes, where you can not do without garden shears.

Shoots during this period are rather fragile and easily broken by fingers. Leave the length you need from the shoot, from two to about ten centimeters, break off the rest. Do this carefully, the shoots can easily break off at the base, and this is of no use to us.

It is necessary to take into account one more point - the lower branches of the spruce grow less, and the upper ones much more. That is, the crown can grow by 50 cm in June, and the ends of the lower branches only by 15–20 cm. Therefore, our task is to try to balance the haircut. We leave the growths of the lower branches longer, in the middle part of the crown - shorter, and in the upper part - the shortest. For example, for a Christmas tree with an average growth of 15–20 cm per season, we leave 10 cm from the growth of the lower branches, 5 cm in the middle, and 3 cm in the upper third. You understand that this activity is not for the lazy, it requires some meditative skills and relative peace of mind, because in 10 minutes you can’t do it here. On the example of the prickly spruce “Iseli Fastigiate” (“Iseli Fastigiata”), one can clearly see the difference in growth on the upper and lower branches.

What will be the result of this titanic labor feat? If you have not missed the optimal time for pinching, then after about two months, carefully looking at your Christmas tree, you will find a small miracle! At the base of each shortened shoot, a whole cluster of fatty, shiny buds will form by August! All the buds that the tree planned to place along the entire length of the young growth, she will eventually lay at the base of this young growth, if we managed to shorten it in time. In May-June next year, your Christmas tree will begin its journey to a wonderful transformation. You will get densely spaced growth throughout the canopy!

Well, it goes without saying - an increase in pinching volumes at times. Repeat spring manipulations for at least a couple more years, and then just use garden shears for the same purpose and cut your ward every year. And every year the reason to be proud of yourself will become more and more justified.

Reason #3 – Growth restriction to maintain composition proportions

The vast majority of gardeners have encountered in their gardening practice that the selected plants do not always grow as we would like. Adjusted and calculated, as it seemed to us, the garden group sometimes behaves completely differently than we planned! For various reasons, plants that should have grown quickly are slowed down, and the declared dwarfs suddenly begin to obscure the background!

This happens often. In order to restore relative order and maintain proportions, you have to take scissors. And even if initially everything was done correctly, the proportions are preserved for years, and the group becomes more and more beautiful from year to year, in the end, there comes a moment when the plants begin to close together. Any closure and growing of neighbors into each other threatens with a loss of decorativeness and thinning of the crown at the points of contact. Due to the lack of light, shaded branches begin to gradually shed their needles and die, and the shape of the crown loses its symmetry.

Christmas trees create a very dense shade for the neighbors and therefore they must be kept within limits. Spruces themselves also do not like shading very much, contrary to what is written about them in the reference literature. Yes, they tolerate shading, they will not die, but they will not grow beautiful under such conditions either. If some part of the spruce crown is shaded by neighboring plants, then an ugly tear can quickly form in this part, which will then be very difficult to overgrow. Therefore, try to avoid shading the neighbors with each other. Use a corrective haircut.

The optimal time for shearing fir trees is the beginning of June (the time of growth of young shoots) and the end of summer-autumn. The June haircut will help you compact the crown, and the autumn haircut will help you adjust the shape and maintain the desired size. If the crown is already dense enough, skip spring pruning, cut in summer and autumn. When shortening adult branches, do not cut branches thicker than a finger in diameter. The cut on the branch is performed at the place where the lateral branches originate, while it is desirable not to leave stumps. You can shorten the main branch to any length.

I strongly advise you to immediately decide what size tree you want to have in the future. It is important! Choose a rail of the desired height and temporarily secure this rail along the trunk while cutting. The upper end of the rail will give you the height of the future cone. From this point, draw an imaginary line down to the base of the cone, and stick to it as you cut. If your eye is not very good, take another rail - more authentic and apply it during the haircut to the upper end of the vertical rail. You yourself will be surprised how smooth the cone you end up with.

If you do not immediately set the final height of the tree, then it will be very difficult to maintain the correct proportions of the crown. Keep in mind that cutting from a stepladder is much more inconvenient and labor-intensive than doing it from the ground, not to mention the price of the services of Carlson the topiary.

If you don't have time to trim your tree in the fall, do it early in the spring before the growing season starts. Missed the June haircut - it doesn’t matter, cut the Christmas tree in August, September, October, November. Ate in this respect are very "compliant". There is no need to process cuts and even saw cuts of spruce branches. All damage is covered with resin. Just do not leave bark burrs and burrs along the contour of the cuts. Cut the saw cut along the contour with a sharp knife, as is done on fruit trees. This contributes to the rapid overgrowth of all damage.

Another important measure for maintaining the beauty and health of your fir trees is cleaning the inside of the crown. Take time to look inside the crown, clean out the fallen needles and cut dead branches into a ring. The crown will then be better ventilated and illuminated. This helps to awaken dormant buds and reduces the risk of fungal diseases.

Reason #4 – “What if I’m an artist at heart?”

We all do different things, work from morning to night and get tired of the routine. Our garden is a magical place where we can realize any creative plans and get to know ourselves from an unexpected side. Spruces are an excellent material for topiary, they are plastic in cutting and quite willingly awaken dormant buds. From fir trees, if desired, you can get any geometric shapes and even create a garden sculpture! For such purposes, it is better to choose dwarf varieties. Keeping fast-growing cultivars within limits will not be an easy task. And of course, it would be more rational to cut the correct ball from a spherical variety, and the ideal cone from a conical one.

You can easily find the most incredible examples of fir topiary shearing on the Internet. Do not be too lazy to inquire - you will get a lot of pleasant impressions!

And I sincerely wish you to show your creative potential in all its glory, surprise and please yourself, relatives, friends and neighbors with wonderful garden works in the coming season!

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why we eat too much

Portion problem:
why we eat too much

The dishes are getting bigger. Food portions are getting bigger. We eat much more than is required to satisfy our hunger. This is beneficial for food producers, but extremely unhealthy. Obviously, we must learn to independently determine how much food is optimal. Let's talk about how to do it.

Illusion of Contrasting Size

If you want to see how bloated portions of food have become, don't go to the supermarket, go to an antique shop. There you can find a tiny goblet, obviously intended for a doll. However, it is called "wine glass". How did it happen that a small plate turned into a large dinner plate? Previously, the dinner plate looked like a saucer.

When you return to your modern kitchen, you will see how much more everything has become. A diameter of 28 centimeters has become the norm for a dinner plate, which at 1950s would be 25 cm. Of course, the fact that we eat from large dishes does not necessarily mean that we eat more than we need. But that's usually what happens.

Correct size:
the recommended serving of spaghetti is 150 g, the same size as a tennis ball.

Psychologist Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, has proven in numerous experiments that you can rely on your sense of proportion, but large dishes are likely to make you eat large portions of food. With a large ice cream scoop you will take more ice cream. Pour more juice into a short wide glass.

This is an illusion of contrasting size: compared to large dishes, it seems that there is not much content and we consume the same amount of food as usual. The main danger of such "kitchen traps" is that almost every person in the world believes that he is not susceptible to them.

Immunity to large portions

In fact, the only people with immunity to large portions are very young children. Up until the age of three or four, all children have the enviable ability to stop eating when they are full. Later, self-regulation of hunger disappears, and some people fail to learn it on their own. This is a cross-cultural phenomenon that is observed from London to Beijing.

In one study, researchers in the US found that when three-year-olds were offered small, medium, and large portions of macaroni and cheese, they always ate about the same amount. However, five-year-olds eat much more when they are offered a large serving of pasta.

It's human nature to eat when you're given food and eat more when you're given more food.

Marion Nestle

Nutritionist, writer

In a world where there is always food, many of us have become like Alice in Wonderland - we are ruled by pies that say "Eat me" and bottles that say "Drink me." The problem is that we are being pushed to eat more and more.

How food sizes have changed

The average size of a potato casserole with meat has almost doubled since 1993.

In 2013, the British Heart Foundation published a report called Portion Distortion on how food sizes in the UK have changed since 1993. If then an ordinary muffin weighed an average of 85 g, then 20 years later it was difficult to find muffins weighing at least 130 g. Ready meals also grew in size. For example, a chicken pie increased by 49%, and potato casserole with meat almost doubled (from 210 to 400 g).

It's hard not to overeat in such an environment, and it's not about willpower. Psychologists talk about cognitive distortion - the preference for holistic objects. Any person unconsciously wants to bring any business to the end. With regard to food, this is especially pronounced: the larger the portion of food, the more you will eat.

It seems to us that a portion is equal to one part of something, regardless of its size. Even if it's a single slice of pizza containing 2,000 kcal, which was bought by nutritionists in New York. Just imagine, the daily calorie intake in one snack!

Recommended servings in real life

While servings in cafes and restaurants are getting gigantic, recommended servings from the food basket are implausibly small. For most breakfast cereals, the recommended serving size across the EU is 30g. The recommended serving size for corn flakes is just 17g. For a 16-year-old, that's literally one sip. Such tiny recommended portion sizes are only suitable for children. Adults need a lot more.

When adults were asked to fill a medium bowl with corn flakes in a 2013 study in Southend and Birmingham, 88% of the subjects poured more than 30g. The average result was 44g. So, the UK Department of Health claims that the ideal portion of broccoli is two inflorescences, and cauliflower is eight. Agree, this is not at all like dinner. However, a survey conducted in South Korea among older people showed a fairly strong influence of traditions on nutrition. Nearly all Koreans in the survey agreed that a serving of white rice should average 75g, sweet potatoes 120g, spinach 40g, and roasted sesame seeds 1g.

The easiest way to solve the problem at home is to use smaller dishes.

Without such general ideas, we remain at the mercy of the food industry. Due to the huge competition, food companies have two likely strategies. The first is to sell smaller portions at higher prices. For example, Unilever announced that Magnum and Cornetto ice cream would be reduced in size by a third (although, of course, the price of the product was not reduced by a third).

The second approach is more common - try to sell us more food. In 1988, you could only buy Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate in one size, 54g. Today, you can buy a chocolate bar in 49g, 110g, 200g, and 360g. Compared to the truly gigantic 360g bar, it's still a big 110 -gram looks very modest.

Often at the end of dinner, when I've already eaten, I still want something sweet. I found that if I take a small deep bowl and put in it what I want - a chocolate cake or halva - then even a small piece is enough for me. The first time I did it, I felt stupid. Can the plate deceive me? Yes maybe. And you too.

Bee Wilson

Food and nutrition author, journalist

Part of our problem with portions is this: nobody likes the concept of less. From childhood, we get used to glasses filled to the brim and a table bursting with food. The easiest way to solve this problem at home is to use smaller utensils.

Proper Serving Sizes

Think you can tell the right portion size by eye? Test yourself. Here's what 200 calories in different foods would look like on a plate. The photographs use either a 26 cm plate or a 16 cm bowl.


1 425 g = 200 kcal


385 g = 200 kcal


588 588 G = 200 kcal

Caified tuna in oil

102 g 9000

Cheese Cheese

51 g = 200 kcal


496 ml = 200 kcal


150 g = 200 kcal

Frown bacon

34 g

Drage Jelly Belly

54 g = 200 kcal

peanut oil

34 g = 200 kcal

whole milk

333 ml = 200 kcal

Lovely macarons

54 g = 200 kcal

Ponant with glaze

9000 52 g


75 g = 200 kcal

Sesame Bagel

70 g = 200 kcal

Last year, researchers from the University of Cambridge led by Theresa Marteau conducted an experiment in a local pub. Instead of ordinary glasses (300 ml), wine was served in larger glasses (370 ml). Sales of standard 175 ml wine increased by 9%. Large glasses made people feel like they were drinking less than usual, which is why they drank wine faster.

The researchers hope that the government will listen to the results of these experiments and take action to reduce the availability of large portions. However, the study itself backfired: now in this pub, wine is always served in large glasses.

Nutrition Experts

Jay Rayner: "I have no idea how to determine normal portion sizes"

British journalist, writer, broadcaster, restaurant columnist

My approach to portion control is entirely hereditary. I adopted it from my parents. They grew up in poverty during World War II when food was in short supply. Therefore, when they grew up and started a family, the table at home was always full. This was combined with the Jewish tradition of cooking more than necessary for guests, common even among those Jews who are not interested in religion and strange dietary rules. Somewhere in the DNA it is imprinted that the Cossacks may arrive tomorrow and you will have to treat them with something, and, who knows, maybe the Rosenbaums will pass by, who will also need to be fed with something.

My mother believed that if there was enough food at home for only family members, then there was not enough food. And I feel the same way. I freely admit that I have no idea how to define a normal serving size. When I have to cook a meal with separate ingredients, say, a pork chop or a fish fillet each, I get nervous - there is no point in cooking more than the number of people present. I like it better when you can choose the portion size yourself - when you cook, for example, stewed vegetables, stews or pasta. You can be sure that part of the dish will remain intact. And if I knew how to control myself well in food, I would not have turned out to be a restaurant critic.

To be fair, everyone in our family works from home, so nothing goes to waste and the leftovers from yesterday's dinner become today's lunch from the fridge. However, it's a bit annoying. I want to know how much rice or pasta is needed to cook dinner for four people. This is even written on the back of the package. Do I pay attention to such things? Yes, I turn. But our fridge is always stocked with small white bowls of leftovers from last night's dinner. One day I will learn. Maybe.

Jay's typical day

Breakfast usually consists of muesli, yogurt and milk. And a cup of coffee (with milk, no sugar), usually followed by a second cup. For lunch, I'll have leftover fried chicken and a salad if I'm feeling fit. Cheese toast, if not. For dinner, I usually make something like Thai green curry, which is made with four chicken breasts, cauliflower, and green beans. It is served with white rice. I cook too much, so some of my dinner goes to the fridge. If I'm going to drink in the evening, it will be three 175 ml glasses of white wine. And if I drank wine, then I will also eat ice cream. One always leads to the other.

Gizzi Erskine: "Feeling full makes me feel better"

TV host, chef, food blogger

I love to treat other people. And I myself love to eat very much, so I have to be careful when I receive guests at home. If I serve food for myself and my boyfriend, I usually look at the plates and take myself the one with more food. But even if I impose on us equally, it still turns out a lot. My boyfriend is under 2 meters tall, and even though I am short, I need a lot of fuel (I am active and run a lot).

When I eat at home, my plate is mostly whole grains, legumes and vegetables. I eat a lot of nuts, mostly cashews, plus one avocado a day. I also like tofu and tempeh, and there the portion size doesn't matter. A couple of times a week I eat fish, and every year I eat less and less meat and dairy products. Once a week, I make a Sunday roast with a large cut of meat or a whole chicken, and then add the leftovers to different dishes throughout the week. I am calm about the leftover food and just as calmly deal with portions. For example, if I am making a stew, then I will put part of the dish into packages and send it to the freezer. But as a rule, I never leave food on my plate - I always finish what I already put on my plate, even if I feel like I'm about to burst. Feeling full makes me feel better.

Eating out is a minefield. Friends have to stop me when I want to try different dishes and start destroying food at an unfathomable rate. I never consider how it will affect my weight or health because it balances out in the end with my home-based approach to nutrition. I only think about drinking alcohol, and that's it.

Jizzy's typical day

For breakfast I have two eggs, usually fried with half an avocado, and spicy tomato sauce with thin corn tortillas, or lots of fried spinach with mushrooms and a little sour cream. And cappuccino. Before lunch I drink green juice and plenty of water. For lunch - pasta with some tomato sauce, chili and anchovy pesto (I weigh 80 g of good durum wheat pasta, but sometimes I add too much sauce and cheese). I am not a big fan of snacking, but if there is an irresistible craving for chocolate, then I will eat a bar. For dinner, I prefer to cook according to a new recipe and complement it: for example, stewed chicken with chorizo ​​and barley with a green salad. And a decent glass of wine four or five times a week.

Maria Verkhovtseva: "It's better not to eat enough than to overeat"

Lifehacker's editor-in-chief

this. Now the passion for this has faded, but the habit of counting BJU has remained.

Knowing how many proteins and carbohydrates are contained in a particular product, I find out how many grams of this product I need to eat. I used to just take a kitchen scale and measure the amount of raw and finished product. Now I already determine by eye the amount of certain foods that I need to eat as part of a healthy diet.

However, if you omit the troubles with BJU, then a habit that has been developed since childhood, adopted from my mother, helps me determine the size of portions for myself or for guests. I was lucky: in our family everyone cooks perfectly. Therefore, I have had the ability to navigate in portions and the required amount of products since childhood.

As a child, like most other people, I was frightened with the phrases: “Throwing away food is a sin”, “Eat with bread to make it more satisfying”, “Eat it up, otherwise I’ll pour it down the collar”, “Bread cannot be thrown away”. Although I allow myself not to follow these pseudo-prohibitions now, the feeling that someone in Africa is starving, and I do not eat or throw away food, makes me a little uncomfortable. I try to respect food, but I think it's better to undereat than to overeat.

I have a slightly snobbish attitude towards food, if it is not homemade, then I can quite easily throw it away. But homemade food prepared by me or relatives is extremely rarely sent to the bin, even if there is very little of it left or you don’t want to eat it at the moment. I think that life hacking approach comes to the rescue here: leftover food can always be used in another dish, for example.

In addition, my body does not want and cannot consume a lot of food. Sometimes lunch has to be divided into two meals, because I am not able to eat everything at once. I eat little, and that is why I am extremely careful about what I eat. “You are what you eat” is a slogan with which I fully agree.

I prefer food prepared by myself or by someone I trust. Therefore, I try to eat out only in proven places. There are not many of them, but for this they are especially valuable to me. Discovering a new place with a cuisine that will not disappoint me is a real Christmas. This rarely happens and requires a lot of effort, but it's worth it.

Mary's usual day

I can't stand monotony in food. There is the same thing for lunch and dinner - not an option for me. It's good that I like to cook and this is not a problem for me. Rather a daily challenge that I take on with great curiosity and pleasure.

The only thing my body becomes monotonous about is breakfast on weekdays. In 99% of cases, I cook myself two eggs - soft-boiled, fried or scrambled. Then I take 50 g of oatmeal, pour it with boiling water, add a spoonful of condensed milk, leave for five minutes and eat it after the eggs. Weak sweet black tea with lemon completes the meal.

For lunch, I also try to eat something with complex carbohydrates (pasta, potatoes, rice or other cereal) and protein. I prefer chicken or fish. In recent years, my love for red meat has completely faded, and now I love it only in the form of barbecue. I love greens. I respect vegetables. I can’t imagine a delicious and healthy lunch without them.

I almost never drink coffee and strong tea, although I have been fond of the latter all my conscious life. At some point, I realized that I did not like the state that I experience after it, and therefore I refused strong tea. Now I try to drink more clean water. This habit has a very favorable effect on my skin and body as a whole.

For dinner I prefer cottage cheese with sweet topping or banana. An alternative would be a piece of salmon with a side dish of green peas.

Weekends are a buffer zone for me, when I eat what I want, when I want.

Irina Baranskaya: “We don’t buy large plates on purpose”

Author of Lifehacker

We don’t buy large plates on purpose, so usually a portion is placed on them, which is ideal for satisfying the feeling of hunger and not feeling heavy after that in a stomach. Since I cook very often, I can almost immediately determine how much each of us needs. For spaghetti, we have a special measuring board with holes, but I deliberately always reduce the amount a little and add more sauce.

If there are guests for dinner, the usual serving size is two of my joined palms. For men, servings are usually 1.5 times larger than for women. Usually I try to put food in common dishes and everyone takes as much as he sees fit.

Another very important point: we all (myself, my husband and child) are very active in sports, so we eat a lot. You also have to cook a lot of various sports snacks. Often in the morning or before training, you need a lot of fast carbohydrates. I try to cook everything myself, because I prefer to understand what exactly we eat.

I don't need a lot of food to feel full, and I want it to be varied. The more vegetables the better.

Usually we eat everything that is cooked. The exceptions are soups, lasagna and pizza. I always try to cook fresh food, but if due to busyness it doesn’t work out, then I cook in such a way that there is enough for a maximum of two times. Leftover food is not thrown away and is always processed into something tasty.

Our menu is very seasonal. In summer, of course, the choice is much richer, we eat a lot of berries and vegetables: cereals with berries (both cold and hot), cottage cheese homemade desserts with berries, lazy dumplings, various egg dishes with vegetables and whole grain bread. Sometimes on weekends I can treat my family to pancakes with homemade jam, pancakes with cottage cheese or berries, or homemade Liege waffles.

Since I have a 9 year old son, we usually have delicious homemade cakes for morning tea.

For lunch, usually soups, salads, pasta, sandwiches, rice dishes (our favorite is Thai yellow curry with chicken) - everything is usually homemade and in various combinations.

We rarely go to restaurants and cafes, as most of the dishes served there are cooked at home and often taste better.

Irina's usual day

My menu for the day is usually like this.

Breakfast: poached eggs on a toasted slice of bread with avocado spread and a slice of tomato, coffee with milk (sometimes with nuts) and a slice of chocolate or homemade cakes, if available. As an option, oatmeal with berries, homemade cottage cheese dessert, French croutons with cinnamon and banana, or pancakes with berry sauce.

Lunch: soup and salad or chicken curry with rice (sometimes without rice), sandwiches, pasta.

Dinner: meat or fish with baked vegetables or cereals, salad or just vegetables, pilaf or stew.

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