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Serving Sizes & What They Actually Look Like

By DMG Nutrition Services

Chances are, we’ve all over-eaten at one time or another, filling our plates with as many delicious foods as we can eat. While it can be easy to over-indulge, it’s important to remember that portion control is the focal point of any healthy diet. Familiarizing ourselves with the correct serving sizes for each major food group guides portion control and can help us avoid putting more in our bodies than is needed.

Whether your go-to dish is chicken and vegetables or pasta with red sauce, serving sizes indicate how much food you should be eating in order to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. When it comes to food, a serving size refers to the standard, measured amount of food, while a portion size is the amount of food you actually eat. For example, the recommended serving size of cereal may be one cup, but your meal may consist of two or three servings of cereal) should you so choose.

If you don’t have your measuring cups handy, don’t fret; you can visualize the correct serving quantities for each food group using familiar household objects, such as a baseball, a deck of cards or even your smartphone. To remember the correct serving sizes the next time you are whipping up a mid-day snack or dinner in the kitchen, try using the following visuals:

  • Protein
    • Think: A deck of cards, palm of the hand, smartphone,
    • Measures about three ounces
    • Appropriate for fish, chicken, beef, etc.
  • Raw or cooked vegetables
    • Think: A baseball or average-sized fist
    • Raw: Measures about 1 cup ( one baseball or fist)
    • Cooked: Measures about one half cup ( computer mouse)
    • Appropriate for carrots, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, etc.
  • Grains
    • Think: A computer mouse
    • Measures about one half cup
    • Appropriate for cooked pasta, rice, cereal, oatmeal
  • Whole grains
    • Think: CD/DVD case, racquetball, hockey puck
    • Bread: CD/DVD case
    • Rolls/muffins: Racquetball
    • Bagel: Hockey puck
    • Measures about one ounce
    • Appropriate for whole-grain bread, bagels, rolls and muffins
  • Fats
    • Think:  the size of the tip of your thumb
    • Measures about  one teaspoon
    • Appropriate for oil, butter, mayonnaise, peanut butter, almond butter, nut spreads etc.
  • Whole medium fruit or cut-up fruit
    • Think: Tennis ball
    • Measures about one cup
    • Appropriate for berries, apples, bananas, etc.
  • Dried fruit
    • Think: small egg or a ping pong ball
    • Measures 2 tablespoons
    • Appropriate for raisins, dates, apricots, prunes, figs, peaches, etc.
  • Cheese
    • Think: Matchbox , Tic-Tacs container or pair of dice
    • Measures about one ounce
    • Appropriate for various types of cheese
  • Low-fat dairy milk
    • Think: Coffee cup
    • Measures about one cup
    • Appropriate for milk, yogurt 
  • Beans & legumes
    • Think: Computer mouse
    • Measures about ½ cup
    • Appropriate for chickpeas, lentils, peas, beans
  • Nuts
    • Think: Shot glass or an Altoids box
    • Measures about one ounce
    • Appropriate for almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, pecans, etc.

When it comes to a healthy diet, the amount you are consuming is just as important as what you are eating. By remembering the appropriate serving sizes for the main food groups, you can enjoy everything you love, even those sweet and savory indulgences, at the correct portion sizes. Measuring your food by keeping these visuals in mind, and listening to your body’s cues, will ensure you are eating just as much as you need to stay healthy and energi­­zed.

To learn more about how you can maintain a well-balanced diet, or to schedule an appointment with one of our dietitians, please visit our Nutrition Services Page.

Topics and Subtopics: Diet & Nutrition

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