What is the difference between "a portion of food" and "a helping of food" ?

  • 1
    They are the same meaning but used in different contexts. At someone's house, you would be asked if you want another helping; If you run a restaurant, you decide on the portions to serve customers.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 22:45
  • Welcome to the Stack Exchange. You might want to check out English Language Learners.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 23:41
  • 2
    "Portion" has a hair more of the sense of being measured, whereas "helping" would tend to be used for the case when the dish is handed to the diner and he/she spoons out as much as desired. But the distinction is not that strong. (Also, "portion" is sort of "clinical" and "helping" is more informal.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 23:59
  • @HotLicks Watson's stag night comes to mind, where Sherlock is using measuring cylinders and John is slinging a few whiskies into the mix. But I suppose only W C Fields regarded alcohol as food. Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 0:04
  • 2
    You take a helping, you’re given a portion.
    – Jim
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 0:06

1 Answer 1


A helping of food is a single portion of food that is being served to (or that is taken by) someone who is imminently about to eat the food.

A portion is an amount of food that is intended to be allotted to one or more people who will be eating at some point in time which could be immediate or in the distant future.

All helpings are portions, but not all portions are helpings.

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