Estimating Serving Sizes
Jun 15, 2010, Updated Aug 24, 2018
It’s no secret that food portions are much larger than they used to be.*
One of the keys to pushing back against “portion distortion” is being able to quickly estimate appropriate serving sizes. Keep in mind that a portion is how much food you actually eat, while a serving is how much food you “should” eat. A portion can (and usually does) contain multiple servings.
Here are some quick guidelines for estimating serving sizes:
A 3-ounce serving of meat = Deck of Playing Cards or Bar of Soap
A 1.5-ounce serving of cheese = Four Dice (that’s 6-sided, for all you D&D Players out there)
2 Tablespoons Peanut Butter = Ping-Pong Ball
1/2 Cup Cooked Pasta = Your Fist, or what would fit into Your Cupped Palm
1 Cup of Soup or Pasta = Baseball, or what would fit into Two Cupped Palms (as if you were about to splash water on your face), or what you could stack on a DVD.
Medium piece of Fruit = Tennis Ball
Medium Potato = Computer Mouse (think 1995… not a 12-button ergonomic one)
“Regular” Bagel = Hockey Puck (most bagels are two or three servings)
Men’s Health also has an article on serving sizes with some handy visual references.
* Don’t just take my word for it: Here’s a 2003 University of North Carolina Study, another article comparing 1950 and 2003 portion sizes, and another with some good visual references, and finally — my favorite — an analysis of portion sizes in paintings of The Last Supper (explaining that they’ve grown over the years).
Photo by jima.