Walking Guide

The Portion Distortion Guide

Selecting the right foods also means choosing portions that are proper serving sizes. The terms "portion" and "serving" are often used interchangeably, but they don't mean the same thing.

A "portion" is the amount of food you choose to eat for meals or snacks (like a plateful of pasta or a handful of raisins). In comparison a "serving" is the amount of food that experts recommend you eat (like 1 cup of milk or 1 ounce of bread). Servings are listed on a food's nutrition facts label too.

When choosing your portion, try to make it as close as possible to these recommended serving sizes.

Grains: Aim for 6-11 servings each day. Choose whole grains whenever possible.
  • Bread: 1 ounce (1 small slice, 1/2 bagel, 1/2 bun), or about the size of an index card
  • Cooked Grains: 1/2 cup cooked oats, rice or pasta, or about the size of a billiard ball
  • Dry cereal: 1/2 cup flakes, puffed rice or shredded wheat, or about the size of a billiard ball
Fruits and Vegetables: Aim for 5-9 total servings each day. Choose fresh fruits and veggies whenever possible.
  • Raw fruit: 1/2 cup raw, canned or frozen fruit, or about the size of billiard ball
  • Dried fruit: 1/4 cup raisins, prunes or apricots, or about the size of an egg
  • Juice: 6 oz 100% fruit or vegetable juice, or about the size of a hockey puck
  • Raw vegetables: 1 cup leafy greens, baby carrots or about the size of a baseball
  • Cooked vegetables: 1/2 cup cooked broccoli, potatoes, or about the size of a billiard ball

Meat and Beans: Aim for 2-3 servings each day. Choose lean meats and plant proteins whenever possible.
  • Meat & Tofu: 2-3 oz cooked beef, poultry, fish or tofu, or about the size of a deck of cards
  • Beans: 1/2 cup cooked beans, split peas or legumes, or about the size of a billiard ball
  • Nuts & Seeds: 2 tbsp nuts, seeds or nut butters, or about the size of a ping pong ball
Dairy: Aim for 2-3 servings of calcium-rich foods each day. Choose low- or non-fat products whenever possible.
  • Cheese: 1 ounce or 1 thin slice of cheese, or about the size of a pair of dice
  • Milk: 1 cup milk, yogurt or non-dairy milk alternative, or about the size of a baseball
Fats & Oils: Eat fats and oils sparingly and in small portions. Choose heart-healthy fats whenever possible.
  • Fat & Oil: 1 tsp butter, margarine or oil, or about the size of one die
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Member Comments

thanks Report
Thanks for the information. I am new to SparkPeople and will need all the help. Report
97MONTY
Great information Report
Great tips! Thanks, Coach! Report
Good reminder. Thank you. Report
Thanks. Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
Why is a serving of dense grain/cereal the size of a billiard ball and a serving of puffy cold cereal the same size. Doesn't seem right to me. Report
I think some servings are too small. Report
Portion control is something you never heard of as a kid. Report
The BEST invesment I've made in healthy eating is my kitchen scale! It really helps keep portion distortion under control. Report
THANKS Report
Dated article, but the information is as true today as it was in 2004. Report
Great article! Report
Even though I have been weighing and measuring for years I try to do a refresher the first of every month to be sure I am still on track. Report
Walking Guide

About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.
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