The amount of food people serve themselves is sometimes a lot more than the recommended serving size. Giving yourself portions that are too large can make it more likely you gain weight, which most people aren't looking to do. Familiarizing yourself with the standard serving sizes can help you avoid this.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are foods that most people need to eat more of to meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommended intake levels of 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. A good way to meet this recommendation is to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal. One piece of fruit the size of a tennis ball is a 1/2-cup serving, as is a 1/2 cup of chopped fruit or cooked vegetables. For raw, green leafy vegetables, the serving size is 1 cup, or about the size of a baseball.
Restaurant serving sizes for meat and other protein sizes are often much larger than the recommended servings. Women only need about 5 ounces of foods from the protein group each day. For meat, fish and poultry, a serving is 3 ounces. This is about the same size as the palm of your hand. One ounce of nuts, or a small handful, is also a serving, as is 1/2 cup of cooked dried beans or one egg. Your protein should take up only about a quarter of your plate at lunch and dinner.
You should eat the equivalent of 6 ounces of grains each day, with at least 3 ounces coming from whole grains. A serving of grains is 1/2 cup of oatmeal or other cooked cereal, rice or pasta; one slice of bread; or 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal. If you have diabetes, the serving sizes for grains are slightly smaller, including 1/3 cup of rice or pasta and 3/4 cup of cereal, due to the need to eat fewer carbs to keep your blood glucose levels under control. Grains or starchy vegetables should take up about a quarter of your plate at each meal.
Try to stick with the equivalent of 3 cups of dairy per day and use low-fat dairy products. Drinking a glass of milk at each meal meets this recommendation. A serving, which is the equivalent of 1 cup of dairy, is 1.5 ounces of hard cheese, 2 ounces of processed cheese, a cup of milk or yogurt, 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese or 2 cups of cottage cheese. An ounce of cheese is about the size of your thumb.
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.