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Making Sense of Portion Sizes

Finding it hard to determine what a serving or portion size is? Below are some ways you can picture a serving or portion size using everyday objects.

Note: hand and finger sizes vary from person to person! These are GUIDES only.

The bread, cereal, rice and pasta group

1 cup of potatoes, rice, pasta - is a tennis ball, ice cream scoop
1 pancake - is a compact disc (CD)
1/2 cup cooked rice - is a cupcake wrapper full
1 piece of cornbread - is a bar of soap
1 slice of bread - is an audiocassette tape
1 cup of pasta, spaghetti, cereal - is a fist
2 cups of cooked pasta - is a full outstretched hand

The vegetable group

1 cup of green salad - is a baseball or a fist
1 baked potato - is a fist
3/4 cup tomato juice - is a small Styrofoam cup
1/2 cup cooked broccoli - is a scoop of ice cream, a light bulb
1/2 cup serving - is 6 asparagus spears; 7 or 8 baby carrots or carrot sticks; 1 ear of corn on the cob

The fruit group

1/2 cup grapes (15 grapes) - is a light bulb
1/2 cup of fresh fruit - is 7 cotton balls
1 medium size fruit - is a tennis ball or a fist
1 cup of cut-up fruit - is a fist
1/4 cup raisins - is a large egg

The milk, yogurt and cheese group

1-1/2ounces of cheese - is a 9-volt battery, 3 dominoes or your index and middle fingers
1 ounce of cheese - is a pair of dice or your thumb
1 cup of ice cream - is a large scoop the size of a baseball

The meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nut group

2 tablespoons of peanut butter - is a ping-pong ball
1 teaspoon of peanut butter - is a fingertip
1 tablespoon of peanut butter - is a thumb tip
3 ounces cooked meat, fish, poultry - is a palm, deck of cards, cassette tape
3 ounces grilled/baked fish - is a checkbook
3 ounces cooked chicken - is a chicken leg and thigh or breast

Fats, oils and sweets

1 teaspoon butter, margarine - is the size of a stamp as thick as your finger or thumb tip
2 tablespoons salad dressing - is a ping-pong ball

Snack foods

1 ounce of nuts or small candies - is one handful
1 ounce of chips or pretzels - is two handfuls
1/2 cup of potato chips, crackers or popcorn - is one man's handful
1/3 cup of potato chips, crackers or popcorn - is one woman's handful

Serving dishes/utensils

1/2 cup - is a small fruit bowl, a custard cup or mashed potato scoop
1-1/2 cups - is a large cereal/soup bowl
1-1/2 cups of pasta, noodles - is a dinner plate, not heaped
1/2 cup of pasta, noodles - is a cafeteria vegetable dish

You might want to know that...

  • 1 cupped hand holds 2 tablespoons of liquid if you don't have measuring spoons
  • 1 slice of bread is one ounce or 1 serving; some rolls or bagels weigh 3 to 5 ounces or more making them equal to 3 to 5 servings of bread.

Sources

Environmental Nutrition, April 1994
First Magazine, August 30, 1993
Kansas Department of Health and Environment
Mademoiselle, September 1993
National Pasta Association Newsletter
Nutrition Action, November 1996
Skim the Fat by the American Dietetic Association, 1995
Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter, September 1994

Compiled by Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Oregon State University Extension Service, 3/97

© Copyright 1995-2009 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

Can't find the health information you’re looking for?

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 6/3/2008...#9436