Serving Size 101: Visual Reference Guide

Serving size visual reference guide

(HealthCastle.com) You've probably heard that a standard 3 oz. serving of meat is about the same size as a deck of playing cards. That's a handy trick to know when trying to estimate how much you're actually eating - and when you should stop - without having to resort to scales or measuring cups, especially when you're eating a meal that someone else has prepared.

But what about other common food items? What does a serving of, say, raw vegetables looks like? Or a serving of a spread, like peanut butter? Since much of our nutrition information and many dietary guidelines are based on servings, it's important to have a mental image that allows you to understand what you're putting on your plate - and into your body. We've analyzed some of the most common food items and come up with a handy list of easy-to-picture visual references so you can understand just what a serving really looks like, and when you're really eating more than one.

HealthCastle.com's Serving Size Visual Reference Guide

Serving size:
Looks like:

Example foods:

1 Tbsp
A poker Chip

Butter, peanut butter


Serving size:
Looks like:

Example foods:

2 Tbsp /1 oz.
A golf ball

Hummus, dried fruit, cheese, salad dressing


Serving size:
Looks like:

Example foods:

2 oz.
A shot glass

Nuts


Serving size:
Looks like:

Example foods:

3 oz.
Deck of cards

Chicken, steak, pork


Serving size:
Looks like:

Example foods:

1/2 cup
A tennis ball

Ice cream, cooked beans, cooked pasta, cooked grains


Serving size:
Looks like:

Example foods:

1 cup
A baseball

Milk, soup, chili, cooked vegetables, yogurt, cut-up fruit


Serving size:
Looks like:

Example foods:

2 cups
2 Closed fists

Raw vegetables


Using Your Plate as a Guide

If you're looking for a visual way to plan out a full meal, you can also follow the new MyPlate recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In short, they recommend that you fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables, then divide the other half between grains and protein, with at least half of the grains being whole.

The Bottom Line

When planning what to eat, you don't generally have scales and measuring cups on hand - especially when you're not eating at home. The simple visual cues in this guide give you the tools you need to understand the portion sizes of common foods so you can literally see what you're eating - and use that information to make healthy choices about what you put on your plate.

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HealthCastle, founded in 1997, is the largest online nutrition community run by Registered Dietitians. Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or dietitian. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.