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Serving Sizes

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Most people know about the Food Guide Pyramid. They also know why we need to eat food from each of the five groups each day. Many also know the number of servings from each group that are needed each day, but many do not know what a serving is.

You may be eating good foods each day, but still are not as healthy as you could be because of the amount of food you eat. The amount of food you eat can be as important to your good health as what you eat.

Servings and Sizes Needed

Here is a review of the number of servings needed each day from each of the food groups and some ways to picture a serving size using everyday objects. Using these examples may help you see you are eating more servings from the Food Guide Pyramid than you think.

Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta (6 to 11 servings)

A serving is:

    • 1 slice of bread or
    • 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta or
    • 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal


1 cup of rice, pasta - is the size of a tennis ball or ice cream scoop

1 piece of cornbread - is the size of a bar of soap

1 slice of bread - is the size of an audio cassette tape

Vegetables (3 to 5 servings)

A serving is:

    • 1/2 cup cooked or chopped raw vegetables or
    • 3/4 cup vegetable juice or
    • 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables


1 -cup salad greens - is the size of a baseball

3/4 cup tomato juice - is the size of a small styrofoam cup

1/2 cup cooked broccoli - is the size of a scoop of ice cream

1/2 cup serving - is 6 asparagus spears; 7 or 8 baby carrots or carrot sticks
or 1 ear of corn on the cob

Fruits (2 to 4 servings)

A serving is:

    • 1 apple, banana, or orange or
    • 3/4 cup of fruit juice or
    • 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit


1/2 cup of grapes (15 grapes) - is the size of a light bulb

1 medium size fruit - is the size of a tennis ball

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs and Nuts (2 to 3 servings)

A serving is:

    • 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish

Eating one of these foods is the same as eating

1 ounce of meat:

    • 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans or
    • 1 egg or
    • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter


1 tablespoon peanut butter - is the size of a ping pong ball

3 ounces cooked meat, fish, poultry - is the size of a deck of cards or a cassette tape

3 ounces cooked chicken - is the size of a chicken leg and thigh or breast

Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese (2 to 3 servings)

A serving is:

    • 1 cup milk or
    • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces of cheese or
    • 1 cup yogurt


1 1/2 ounces cheese - is the size of a 9-volt battery or 3 dominoes

1 ounce of cheese - is the size of a pair of dice

1 cup of ice cream - is the size of a large scoop the size of a baseball

Fats, Oil, and Sweets (use sparingly)

1 -teaspoon butter, margarine - is the size of a stamp or the thickness of a pencil

2 tablespoons salad dressing - is the size of a ping pong ball

Written by Barbara Farner, Nutrition and Wellness Educator, University of Illinois Extension, Manteno Extension Center

I recommend Wonder Laboratories for the overall best quality and price when considering vitamins, herbs and supplements.

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