The Portion Distortion Guide

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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Member Comments

This recommendation seems out of date as it is so heavy in carbs. However, portion size is definitely important and when we compare serving sizes today to the 50's, they are about 4 x larger (think "super sizing" everything). Report
THANKS Report
This serving guide was for 1950. 6 - 11 serving of grain? 4 cups of veges? 3 cups of milk. No wonder Americans are over weight? Report
As I follow the Mediterranean diet, I would not be able to survive these suggestions. As I eat to live not live to eat, I eat what I want when I want until feeling satisfied. I do not overeat this way. I do not end up gorging afterward doing this. I am not arguing with you though. I just disagree. Report
Great article! Report
Great article! Report
Good info for 2004. Needs to be updated. SAD diet is not a good diet to follow. Research and come up with what is the best for you. Report
Great reminder Report
Second read this morning. Needed the reminder! Report
Great comparisons! Report
thank you Report
WRONG, 6-11 servings of grains? If thats your base then your following the govt food pyramid and by now everybody should know thats completely upside down. Report
SPARKYFLOWER
I do have portion distortion. I have had to go back to measuring for a while Report
PLCHAPPELL
Great info Report
Thanks for the informatoin Report


 

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.