Portion Control Tips for Healthy Eating


Food portions, plates, and bowls have gotten larger over the years. Obesity in America has grown right along with the serving sizes. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that more than one third of U.S. adults—more than 72 million
people—and 16% of U.S. children are obese. The obesity rate for adults has doubled since 1980 while rates for children have tripled.

Along with learning which foods to eat for a healthier diet, it is important to learn or re-learn proper portion sizes. At home you may wish to actually measure or weigh food portions to learn serving sizes. Over time you should be able to “eyeball” the amount.

What Counts as a Serving?

According to the USDA Food Pyramid:

A serving of meat is about two or three ounces. Serving sizes for other proteins would be two tablespoons of nut butters, two eggs, and one third cup of dry beans.
A serving of bread is equal to one slice of white or whole grain bread, one ounce of prepared cereal, or just one half cup of pasta, or rice.
A serving of is equal to one piece of fresh fruit, one half a cup of chopped fruit, or three-fourths cup of fruit juice.
A serving of vegetable is equal to one half cup of chopped raw or cooked vegetables, one cup of leafy raw vegetables, or three-fourths cup of vegetable juice.
A serving of dairy is equal to one cup of milk or one and one half ounces of cheese.

When eating out it is not possible to measure or weigh food portions. Here are a few guidelines that can help:

Think tennis ball or ice cream scoop for portion size of mashed potatoes, rice, cooked broccoli, or medium size whole fruit or 1/2 cup of fresh sliced fruit.

Think compact disc for serving size of one pancake or slice of bread.

Think bar of soap or serving size of cornbread.


Think of your fist size for appropriate size of green salad, baked potato, or cereal serving.

Think of a large egg as an appropriate size for a serving of raisins.

Think of a 9-volt battery as the appropriate size for a 1.5 ounce serving of cheese.

Think of a ping-pong ball as the size of 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or salad dressing.

Think of your fingertip as the size of one teaspoon of peanut butter or a pad of butter.

Think of your palm as the appropriate size for a serving of meat, fish, or poultry.

Think of your hand when snacking. One handful is plenty for an serving of nuts, small candies, or potato chips. Two handfuls is allowed for pretzels.

It’s just as important to eat appropriate servings of health foods as it is to eat those healthy foods. Here’s to your health as a New Year approaches.

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Cleveland Clinic
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention