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

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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.

Member Comments

  • Very helpful info....referring again to this morning even. However, I tend not to agree with recommended servings. Especially on 6-11 servings of grains. I know we need fiber, but that's a lot of dense carbs and I eat lots of veggies instead. I agree with another member that veggies and grains should be switched. in addition, could also up the meat/bean intake to ensure we get enough protein and vitamins. I've read we should at least get in 25 grams of protein per meal or around 80 grams a day. Give or take, based on male/female and body mass. Anywhoo...just my humble opinions. Thanks again SP for the great tips. - 4/27/2016 12:23:15 PM
  • I've noticed several recipes that call for 1 oz. of pasta. Is that 1/2 cup or less? - 4/17/2016 7:15:53 PM
  • This article was just what I needed to learn for today. Portion control has always been a problem. I get hungry and then want to eat until I am full. I do better when I eat less but I cannot seem to know by instinct what is enough! I printed out the article and plan to cut out the charts and post to refrigerator since I seem to have a relationship with my refrigerator on a daily basis (lol). Thank you Coach Nicole for all your help in Portion Control. Will study and use. - 3/22/2016 8:38:50 AM
  • I like the sizing examples, but I find the scale works best for me. However, I DO try to remember those sizing examples when I eat out! - 3/14/2016 10:14:11 AM
  • So how many servings in a cantaloupe? - 3/13/2016 3:34:27 AM
  • I struggle with portions and love SPs real life examples. A baseball is a better visual then a weight on a scale for me. - 3/10/2016 7:56:13 AM
  • PUNKADOO58
    I am doing much better now I am using a scale - 3/2/2016 7:52:43 PM
  • I use measuring devices all the time including a scale or I would definitely under estimate the oz and TB or tsp of what I am using. - 2/16/2016 9:53:43 PM
  • Great information! I definitely have portion distortion. A deck of cards for meat?(yikkes) I will be much more mindful on my portion size, I wonder if a food scale would help? Have a great da,y Sparkers! - 2/1/2016 9:09:49 AM
  • I have to use the measuring devices otherwise I either over estimate on some foods and underestimate on others. - 1/25/2016 6:56:12 PM
  • I struggle with this... sometimes it is hard to decipher how much are things that I eat. - 1/25/2016 5:00:22 PM
  • Any tabletop gamer would have problems with "one dice" or "two dice," as we've got dice in every size, shape, and material (and Crown Royal bags are excellent for carrying them). - 1/25/2016 1:54:40 PM
  • Portion size makes a big difference. When I started measuring my portions, I realized how much I was over eating. I also feel satisfied and not hugry fast when I eat a wholesome meal. - 1/25/2016 8:28:15 AM
  • I bought a few measuring cups at Dollar Tree, and now I have no excuse not to measure out my foods. They only cost a dollar and I can leave them in cereal say so I don't have to hunt down the right measurement. - 1/25/2016 8:21:10 AM
  • Thank you for guiding us how to measure the portion which is very much help full to learn how much we required as a portion to help in weight lose. Regards. Zeba Rashid - 1/22/2016 3:25:58 PM

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