What can I do to help control portion sizes of food?

One way to maintain a healthy weight is to watch how much you eat. You can do this by controlling portion sizes. Comparing the serving sizes of foods with familiar objects with portion awareness. Here are some items that are equal in size to one serving of various foods.

  • One serving of meat is 3 ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards. The portion has 150-300 or so calories (depending on whether it is lean or higher fat).
  • One serving of cheese is 1 ounce, or about the size of a 9-volt battery. The portion has 100 calories.
  • One serving of bread is one slice that is about the size of a cell phone. The portion has 100 calories.
  • One serving of potatoes, rice, pasta, or dry beans is 1/2 cup, or about the size of a computer mouse. The portion has 100 calories.
  • One serving of fruit is 1 medium fruit, or about the size of a tennis ball. The portion has 100 calories.
  • One serving of vegetables is 1 cup, or about the size of a baseball. The portion has 25-50 calories.
  • One serving of salad dressing is 1 tablespoon, or about the size of the space between the tip of the thumb to the first joint. The portion has 50-75 calories.
  • One serving of oil, butter or nut butters is 1 tablespoon, or about the size of the space between the tip of the thumb to the first joint. The portion has 100 calories.
  • One serving of nuts is 1 ounce, or about the size of a golf ball. The portion has 150-200 calories.

One of the key ways to adjust your lifestyle and maintain your weight is controlling your serving sizes. Even if you are not attempting to lose weight, you should be aware of serving sizes and those amounts recommended for you.

The best way to determine the amount of food in a given serving is to look at the Nutrition Facts label and measure it out. Although this may not be practical or that much fun, if you are able to take the time, you will soon be able to “eyeball” the amount of food and know whether there is too much or too little.

For example, filling a measuring cup with the proper sized portion of vegetables, rice, etc., and then emptying it onto a plate will help you learn what these serving sizes look like. Take note of how much of the plate is covered; this will help you in the future, even if you only do it once. Simply by having and implementing this knowledge, you will have taken an important step in achieving weight management.

Other ways of developing and maintaining proper portion control include:

At home

  • Use smaller dishes at meals. Try a lunch size plate (9 inches) rather than a dinner size plate (which is 11 inches).
  • Serve food in the appropriate portion amounts and don't go back for seconds.
  • Put away any leftovers in separate, portion-controlled amounts. Consider freezing the portions you likely will not eat for a while.
  • Avoid eating out of the bag or carton. Instead, portion bulk foods into a small bowl.
  • Don't keep platters of food on the table; you are more likely to "pick" at it or have a second serving without even realizing it.

At restaurants

  • Ask for half or smaller portions.
  • "Eyeball” your appropriate portion, set the rest aside, and ask for a doggie bag right away. Servings at many restaurants are often big enough to provide lunch for two days.
  • If you have dessert, share.

At the supermarket

  • Beware of "mini-snacks"--tiny crackers, cookies or pretzels. Most people end up eating more than they realize, and the calories add up.
  • Choose foods packaged in individual serving sizes.
  • If you're the type who eats ice cream out of the carton, pick up ice cream sandwiches or other individual size servings (100-150 calories per serving).

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