Proper portions, or serving sizes, can be easily navigated!
I sometimes have trouble remembering how much of a particular food type is a good serving size. I use everyday objects to help me remember proper portions, both at home, and when out at a restaurant. This is the long version… want the quick version, or want to download the PDF? Check out our Serving Sizes Cooking Resource!
Lean Meats, Poultry & Tofu – 3 ounces – deck of cards
It is really easy to eat too much meat, for me anyway, possibly because it’s just so delicious! A serving size of lean meat, poultry or tofu is about 3 ounces. To visualize 3 ounces, especially when out a restaurant, think of a pack of cards, or even a bar of soap. That is an approximate serving size. I sometimes buy canned chicken, which comes in 10 ounce cans, to use for chicken salads for lunch. I can make 3 chicken salads with just 1 can.
Fish – 3 ounces – size of your checkbook
This one is pretty easy to maintain. A lot of fish comes served in about this general serving size, even out at a restaurant. Tuna and salmon can also be purchased in 5 ounce cans (4 ounces when drained), which is pretty close to the appropriate serving size. Two cans can be used to feed approximately the right serving size of fish to 3 people.
Cooked Pasta & Rice – about ½ cup – size of your fist
For me, this is the most difficult serving size to stick to. When I eat pasta or rice, which I try not to do too often, I eat a lot of it. It’s just so easy to fill a bowl or cover a plate in pasta or rice that sticking to just a half cup is difficult. To avoid overeating the grains, I’ve been trying to make extra vegetables or a nice big salad to go with my grains. It helps, but it’s still tough to stick to the size of my fist as a serving size!
Grains – bread, pancake, waffle – 1 slice – size of a CD case
That’s right, an appropriate serving size of bread is not the usual 2 slices for a sandwich, it’s just 1 slice. While this can seem like a bit of a bummer, adding a salad to go with 1/2 a sandwich is a great way to make sure you have enough food to eat to fill you up, without going over the serving size of any one type of food.
Grains – cereal & popcorn – 1 baseball for cereal, 3 baseballs for popcorn
I absolutely LOVE popcorn! And knowing that I can have 3 whole baseballs of it is awesome! The serving size of popcorn certainly puts the sizes available at the movie theaters into perspective. Keep it to the smallest available size, and don’t smother it in butter. As for cereal, I personally don’t eat much, but the kids do. They regularly eat way more than the correct serving size of cereal. Granted, they’re growing children and spend a lot of time burning off energy, but I still remind them to do their best to keep the serving sizes as close to what it should be as possible.
Fruits, whole – 1 tennis ball
Another pretty easy one. An apple (because the core isn’t eaten, it’s close), a peach (because the pit isn’t eaten, it’s close), a plum… basically any whole piece of fruit fits this serving size pretty closely. When eating smaller fruits, such as strawberries or blueberries, I aim to eat about as many as would fit inside a tennis ball, or fit inside a plum. This helps me estimate the correct serving size without having to measure anything out or go crazy with it.
Salad Greens & Cooked Vegetables – 1 cup – 1 baseball
Sticking to the proper portions of salad greens at home is pretty easy. Unfortunately, when out and about, restaurants tend to serve side salads in enormous bowls that are way over the correct serving size. Granted, salad is good for us all, but that doesn’t mean we should over eat it. This is another situation in which ordering a to-go box before eating the meal can really help keep portions correct. Plus, packing up half of all the food ordered before eating means taking home the entire meal to eat again later! Score!
Fats & Oils – 1 tablespoon – 1 poker chip
This includes butters, mayonnaise, peanut butter, and all other types of fats and oils. This portion size can be especially difficult to maintain when it comes to salad dressings. I know I enjoy smothering my salads with way more dressing than necessary, but I do my best not to. I have found that shaking a salad really well, or mixing it really well before consuming can help minimal amounts of dressings go a long way.
Cheese – 1½ ounces – 3 dice
It’s easy to think of the size of dice when cutting up a block of cheese. Figuring out the proper portion when it comes to melted or shredded cheese is a lot more difficult. When I eat cheese, I just try to keep the melted or shredded cheese to a minimum, in attempt to get as close to the right serving size as possible. I know it isn’t always perfect, but this is not an exact science.
Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt – ½ cup – size of your fist (that includes whatever is hidden in the cone!)
The proper portions for ice cream and frozen yogurt to eat is about a scoop. This can be a lot more difficult to figure out if the serving size is correct when you’re eating soft serve, as the cones can often be piled pretty high with yummy deliciousness. To be safe, I generally order the child’s sized soft serve cone. It really is enough for me and it ensures I’m sticking close to the right portion.
Chocolate – 1 of 2 pieces – about the size of a dental floss pack
The proper portion of chocolate, for me, is almost impossible to stick to! Not only do most candy bars go way over the truly correct serving size of chocolate, I just really love to eat a lot of it when I can. I know, it’s a weakness of mine, but chocolate is just plain old fantastic!