Making Sense of Food Portion Sizes

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We have been told repeatedly that portion sizes of many restaurant foods are too large.

We know that our portion sizes need to be reduced for weight control, but how do we determine what the proper portion size is?

There are a few general portion rules for the food groups, but it always depends on how
many calories you need to eat in the day, which varies based on the individual's needs. Some may need to only eat one portion while others may need to eat five or ten for optimal health.

Portion Guidelines

  • Fruit: One serving of most fruits is about 1 cup. A good visual to think of is a baseball or tennis ball size.
  • Vegetables: In most cases, it is not necessary to limit the vegetables. It is important to make sure we get enough! One cup raw equals one serving while half a cup cooked also equals one serving. The average person should try to eat four to five vegetable servings per day.
  • Protein: A good visual is a deck of cards or your meat portion should be able to fit within the palm of your hand. Don't forget that eggs, tofu, and beans also count towards your protein intake. A general rule is that the average person should not eat more than two "palm size" servings of protein per day.
  • Fats: The portion size depends on the type of fat consumed. Fat is measured in teaspoons or tablespoons. Half a walnut or the size of your thumb is a good visual for 1 tablespoon. Think of a dice size for the teaspoon serving size.
  • Carbohydrates: The portion size for carbohydrates also varies. A good general rule is that half a cup equals one serving. If you fill up a cupcake wrapper with pasta or rice, that is one serving. For breads, think of the size of a cassette tape (if you remember what that looks like) as one serving. And for potatoes, think of a computer mouse as a serving size.
  • Dairy: One cup of milk, a six ounce container of yogurt, and a one ounce piece of cheese equals one portion. One ounce of cheese is about the size of a box of dental floss or two dice.

Do you have any good visuals that help you remember portion sizes?