Serving Size

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Keep an Eye on Portion Size

What is the difference between Portions and Servings?

A "portion" can be thought of as the amount of a specific food you choose to eat for dinner, snack, or other eating occasion. Portions, of course can be bigger or smaller than the recommended food servings.

A "serving" is a unit of measure used to describe the amount of food recommended from each food group. It is the amount of food listed on the Nutrition Facts panel on packaged food or the amount of food recommended in the Food Guide Pyramid and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

For example, 6-11 servings of whole grains are recommended daily. A recommended serving of whole grains would be 1 slice of bread or 1/2 cup of rice or pasta. People often confuse the recommendation to mean 6 to 11 portions with no regard to size. It is not 6 to 11 portions where one portion could mean a large bowl of pasta rather than ˝ cup. Keep an eye on portion size to see how your portions compare with the recommended servings.

Serving Sizes

Most people know about the Food Guide Pyramid. They also know why we need to eat food from each of the five groups each day. Many also know the number of servings from each group that are needed each day, but many do not know what a serving is.

You may be eating good foods each day, but still are not as healthy as you could be because of the amount of food you eat. The amount of food you eat can be as important to your good health as what you eat.

Servings and Sizes Needed

Here is a review of the number of servings needed each day from each of the food groups and some ways to picture a serving size using everyday objects. Using these examples may help you see you are eating more servings from the Food Guide Pyramid than you think.

Food Label

Everyday Item

Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta (6 to 11 servings)

A serving is:

1 slice of bread or

1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta or

1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal

  • 1 cup of rice, pasta - is the size of a tennis ball or ice cream scoop

  • 1 piece of cornbread - is the size of a bar of soap

  • 1 slice of bread - is the size of an audio cassette tape

Vegetables (3 to 5 servings)

A serving is:

1/2 cup cooked or chopped raw vegetables or

3/4 cup vegetable juice or

1 cup of raw leafy vegetables

  • 1 -cup salad greens - is the size of a baseball

  • 3/4 cup tomato juice - is the size of a small styrofoam cup

  • 1/2 cup cooked broccoli - is the size of a scoop of ice cream

  • 1/2 cup serving - is 6 asparagus spears; 7 or 8 baby carrots or carrot sticks or 1 ear of corn on the cob

Fruits (2 to 4 servings)

A serving is:

1 apple, banana, or orange or

3/4 cup of fruit juice or

1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit

  • 1/2 cup of grapes (15 grapes) - is the size of a light bulb

  • 1 medium size fruit - is the size of a tennis ball

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs and Nuts (2 to 3 servings)

A serving is:

 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish

Eating one of these foods is the same as eating 1 ounce of meat:

1/2 cup of cooked dry beans or

1 egg or

2 tablespoons of peanut butter

  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter - is the size of a ping pong ball

  • 3 ounces cooked meat, fish, poultry - is the size of a deck of cards or a cassette tape

  • 3 ounces cooked chicken - is the size of a chicken leg and thigh or breast

Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese (2 to 3 servings)

A serving is:

1 cup milk or

1 1/2 to 2 ounces of cheese or

1 cup yogurt

  • 1 1/2 ounces cheese - is the size of a 9-volt battery or 3 dominoes

  • 1 ounce of cheese - is the size of a pair of dice

  • 1 cup of ice cream - is the size of a large scoop the size of a baseball

Fats, Oil, and Sweets (use sparingly)

  • 1 -teaspoon butter, margarine - is the size of a stamp or the thickness of a pencil

  • 2 tablespoons salad dressing - is the size of a ping pong ball

What is portion control?

Poor portion control is one of the main reasons why people are overweight or obese. While many people know the difference between healthy and unhealthy food, few can recognise how much food is too much.

Eat the wrong type of food (high-fat) and you will put on weight – simple! But eat too much food - regardless of whether it is low-fat or low-calorie and you will also put on weight. To maintain a healthy weight, you must keep your portion sizes under control in addition to watching the fat and calorie content of foods.

What is a healthy food portion?

Many of us have lost sight of what a “normal” food portion, mainly because we are constantly presented with ‘supersize’ and “king size” bars of chocolate, crisps, sandwiches and fast food.

To understand a healthy portion size you need to know that:

  • The average woman needs about 2,000kcals and 70g of fat per day

  • The average man needs about 2,500kcals and 90g of fat per day.

You should aim to share out this calorie allowance throughout the day instead of consuming most of it in one sitting at lunch or dinner.


The above opinionated views and information serves to educated and informed consumer .  The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. .It should not replaced professional advise and consultation.  A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions 

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