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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Member Comments

  • LSOPHIA
    To help me with portion control, I purchased rectangular appetizer plates and donated my dinner plates. I then fill the plate first with vegetables, then protein. That leaves little room for the rice or potato.
  • PHHHISC
    Always working on this.
  • Portion control is one of the harder parts of this journey for me and I hate the idea of having to weigh and measure my food. Just one more reason for me to put off eating. Although many things list portions that are my than I could even eat in a day for example....7 servings of a grain? Could not do that on my best day's.
  • STUARTMAC1
    Dear all,just wrote about how you can half the calories of rice,sorry it was NOT canola oil it was
    COCONUT OIL and I just found a site from a programme of Dr Oz who tells you about it, I think this is an american show?.good luck ,sorry about that.

    cheers Stu.
  • STUARTMAC1
    Hi,everybody,just new to spark and reading the comments about portion size etc and I was on the net checking about rice and found an article from SRI LANKA and a proffessor found out the you can half the calories in cooked rice by adding a dessert spoon of canola oil or similar when cooking and then let the rice cool in the fridge overnight then eat the next day, sounds incredible ,but the oil and leaving overnight changes something in the rice,how great is that,I am an aussie but live in Indonesia so rice is eaten everywhere. google " cooked rice half the calories " something like that. hope this helps someone..
    cheers Stu.
  • This will be very helpful. Thanks!
  • EMBEE242
    Found this article very helpful until I discovered that fish is not mentioned at all. Was this inadvertent, in which case it skews everything.
  • A really helpful article
  • TOMATOCAFEGAL
    MEASURING SPOONS, CUPS AND A SCALE. CHECK ON MYSELF MONTHLY.
  • I have the worst time controlling my portions at supper. That is my biggest weakness.
  • I have trouble with the visual estimates, altho I have to do this when at a restaurant or meal away from home. My favorite method is weighing and measuring. Sometimes, I think I need the props with me to make visual estimates - deck of cards, etc.
  • This article was an eye opener for me! I thought I had a handle on this! Happy to know that I had it right on some things but learned the proper portions on other things. Well, this explains a lot!
  • AHIMSA417
    I'm not sure it's possible to eat that much food in the suggested servings, and stay under 2000 calories. The grains alone would take up most them.
  • Thx for the reminder!!!!

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.

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