Portion Sizes

How do you know a reasonable portion of food when you see it? Visualize the objects mentioned below when eating out, planning a meal, or grabbing a snack. For example, the amount of meat recommended as part of a healthful meal is 3-4 ounces – and it will look about the same size as a deck of cards.

The look of normal portion sizes

1 ounce meat: size of a matchbox
3 ounces meat: size of a deck of cards or bar of soap – the recommended portion for a meal
8 ounces meat: size of a thin paperback book
3 ounces fish: size of a checkbook
1 ounce cheese: size of 4 dice
Medium potato: size of a computer mouse
2 Tbs peanut butter: size of a ping pong ball
1/2 cup pasta: size of a tennis ball
Average bagel: size of a hockey puck

Avoid Portion Distortion
Portion Size Pitfalls
Serving Size Card
Secret to Serving Size is in Your Hand

Even bagels have become super-sized, which gives this reasonably healthful breakfast item a high calorie count. Bakeries and grocery stores often carry jumbo bagels that measure 4 ¼ inches across and contain 300-400 calories each. A regular, 3-inch-diameter bagel has about 150 calories and counts as 2 servings of bread in the grain group.

Reduce your portion sizes without even thinking about it

Research shows most people naturally eat less when utilizing these strategies:

  • Use smaller plates and bowls (you’ll serve yourself less while your brain tells you you’re getting a full plate!)
  • Serve food out of smaller containers (most people will pour less cereal out of a small box than a big box, or take fewer chips from a small bag than a large bag)
  • Use tall wide glasses for water so you’ll drink more
  • Use tall narrow glasses with lots of ice for soda and sugar–sweetened beverages
  • Avoid watching TV, reading or doing other activities while eating - people tend to eat less when they pay attention to what they are eating

More about portion sizes: