Estimating Serving Sizes

Deck of Cards Serving Size

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.

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