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.

Examples One serving equals That's about the size of
Bread 1 ounce (1 small slice, 1/2 bagel, 1/2 bun) Index card
Cooked Grains 1/2 cup cooked oats, rice, pasta Billiard ball
Dry cereal 1/2 cup flakes, puffed rice, shredded wheat Billiard ball

Fruits and Vegetables: Aim 5-9 total servings each day. Choose fresh fruits and veggies whenever possible.

Examples One serving equals That's about the size of
Raw fruit 1/2 cup raw, canned, frozen fruit Billiard ball
Dried fruit 1/4 cup raisins, prunes, apricots An egg
Juice 6 oz 100% fruit or vegetable juice Hockey puck
Raw vegetables 1 cup leafy greens, baby carrots Baseball
Cooked vegetables 1/2 cup cooked broccoli, potatoes Billiard ball


Meat and Beans: Aim for 2-3 servings each day. Choose lean meats and plant proteins whenever possible.

Examples One serving equals That's about the size of
Meat & Tofu 2-3 oz cooked beef, poultry, fish, tofu Deck of cards
Beans 1/2 cup cooked beans, split peas, legumes Billiard ball
Nuts & Seeds 2 Tbsp nuts, seeds, or nut butters Ping pong ball

Dairy: Aim for 2-3 servings of calcium-rich foods each day. Choose low- or non-fat products whenever possible.

Examples One serving equals That's about the size of
Cheese 1 ounce or 1 thin slice of cheese A pair of dice
Milk 1 cup milk, yogurt, soy milk Baseball

Fats & Oils: Eat fats and oils sparingly and in small portions. Choose heart-healthy fats whenever possible.

Examples One serving equals That's about the size of
Fat & Oil 1 tsp butter, margarine, oil 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.