Nutrition Articles

The Portion Distortion Guide

A List of Serving Sizes

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Selecting the right foods also means choosing portions that are proper serving sizes. The terms "portion" and "serving" are often used interchangeably, but they don't mean the same thing.

A "portion" is the amount of food you choose to eat for meals or snacks (like a plateful of pasta or a handful of raisins). In comparison a "serving" is the amount of food that experts recommend you eat (like 1 cup of milk or 1 ounce of bread). Servings are listed on a food's nutrition facts label too.

When choosing your portion, try to make it as close as possible to these recommended serving sizes.

Grains: Aim for 6-11 servings each day. Choose whole grains whenever possible.
  • Bread: 1 ounce (1 small slice, 1/2 bagel, 1/2 bun), or about the size of an index card
  • Cooked Grains: 1/2 cup cooked oats, rice or pasta, or about the size of a billiard ball
  • Dry cereal: 1/2 cup flakes, puffed rice or shredded wheat, or about the size of a billiard ball
Fruits and Vegetables: Aim for 5-9 total servings each day. Choose fresh fruits and veggies whenever possible.
  • Raw fruit: 1/2 cup raw, canned or frozen fruit, or about the size of billiard ball
  • Dried fruit: 1/4 cup raisins, prunes or apricots, or about the size of an egg
  • Juice: 6 oz 100% fruit or vegetable juice, or about the size of a hockey puck
  • Raw vegetables: 1 cup leafy greens, baby carrots or about the size of a baseball
  • Cooked vegetables: 1/2 cup cooked broccoli, potatoes, or about the size of a billiard ball

Meat and Beans: Aim for 2-3 servings each day. Choose lean meats and plant proteins whenever possible.
  • Meat & Tofu: 2-3 oz cooked beef, poultry, fish or tofu, or about the size of a deck of cards
  • Beans: 1/2 cup cooked beans, split peas or legumes, or about the size of a billiard ball
  • Nuts & Seeds: 2 tbsp nuts, seeds or nut butters, or about the size of a ping pong ball
Dairy: Aim for 2-3 servings of calcium-rich foods each day. Choose low- or non-fat products whenever possible.
  • Cheese: 1 ounce or 1 thin slice of cheese, or about the size of a pair of dice
  • Milk: 1 cup milk, yogurt or non-dairy milk alternative, or about the size of a baseball
Fats & Oils: Eat fats and oils sparingly and in small portions. Choose heart-healthy fats whenever possible.
  • Fat & Oil: 1 tsp butter, margarine or oil, or about the size of one die

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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.