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Healthy Portion Sizes of Foods

by Laurel Heidtman

About Laurel Heidtman

Laurel Heidtman began writing for her hometown paper, "The Harrison Press," in 1964. In addition to freelancing she has worked as a police officer, a registered nurse, a health educator and a technical writer. She holds an associate degree in nursing, a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Technical and Scientific Communication from Miami University of Ohio.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say studies indicate people eat more when served more. In one study, two groups of people were asked to rate the taste of different-sized containers of popcorn. Even when they didn’t like the popcorn, people given larger amounts ate more. In another study, not only did participants eat more when served more, they didn’t recognize differences in amounts. Learning to recognize and serve healthy portion sizes is important for weight control.

Portions Vs. Servings

Portions are often confused with servings. For example, many people would say they ate one serving of cereal, but a true serving of dry cereal based on guidelines for daily nutrient recommendations is only 1/2 cup. Few people pour only 1/2 cup into a bowl without measuring. To further confuse the issue, labels list different amounts for one serving of different kinds of cereal. This allows comparison of calories and nutrients among similar kinds of food but does not necessarily correlate with dietary guidelines.


One serving of meat or poultry is 3 oz., approximately the size of a deck of cards. One serving of grilled or baked fish is the size of a checkbook. One egg, 1 tbsp. of peanut butter and 1/4 cup of cooked beans is equivalent to 1 oz. The USDA recommendation for adults is 5 to 6 oz. from this group daily. Americans often overindulge in meat, which is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Controlling portion sizes can help control cholesterol and weight.


One slice of bread, one small biscuit, 1/2 of an English muffin and 3 cups of popped popcorn are all equivalent to 1-oz. servings of grain. A 1-oz. pancake is the size of a compact disc. A 1-oz. serving of dry cereal is fist-size, and a serving of cooked rice or pasta is equivalent to 1/2 a baseball. The USDA recommendation for adults is 5 to 8 oz. from this group per day.

Fruit and Vegetables

One cup of salad greens or a 1/2 cup of fresh fruit is baseball-sized. One serving of baked potato is the size of your fist, and one serving of raisins is the size of a large egg. The USDA recommendation for adults is 2 1/2 to 3 cups of fruits and vegetables daily.


One cup of milk or yogurt is a serving. A serving of cheese is the size of four stacked dice, while a serving of ice cream is the size of 1/2 a baseball. The USDA recommends adults consume 3 cups of milk or milk products daily.


One tbsp. of cooking oils is equal to 3 tsp., while 1 tbsp. of margarine or mayonnaise is equivalent to 2 1/2 tsp. The USDA recommends adults eat 5 to 7 tsp. of oils daily. Keep in mind that oils are contained in other foods, such as meat and fish.

Photo Credits:

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.