How to Estimate Serving Size

Written by aletha reil
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How to Estimate Serving Size
Eating proper-sized portions helps you keep a healthy weight. (portion de riz image by danimages from

You can learn to recognise whether a portion of food is correctly sized, or too large or small. Most restaurants serve "single-portion" meals that actually contain enough food to feed at least two people.

You can use two basic methods to estimate serving sizes. The one you choose should be the easiest for you to remember. Once you know how to estimate serving sizes, all you need is the willpower to eat only what you know you need.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Typical serving size guide

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    Estimating Serving Sizes: The Standard Method

  1. 1

    Imagine a poker chip. The standard portion size guide uses a poker chip as a way of measuring about one tablespoon. The single poker chip represents one serving of foods such as mayonnaise, oils, olives and butter. Two poker chips represent the serving size of one cookie.

    How to Estimate Serving Size
    A poker chip represents the typical serving size for one tablespoon. (poker chips image by Melking from
  2. 2

    Now, visualise a baseball. This represents the standard 1-cup serving size of a variety of foods. These include 1-cup measurements for vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli and salads, and also popcorn, yoghurt, cereal, pasta and soups and chilli.

    How to Estimate Serving Size
    The baseball represents the 1-cup serving size for many foods. (baseball image by Tomasz Plawski from
  3. 3

    Think of a small light bulb. This is about the size of a 1/2-cup serving, the usual portion of grains such as rice and couscous, frozen yoghurt or ice cream, and 1/2 cup of berries.

    How to Estimate Serving Size
    The light bulb represents a standard 1/2-cup serving. (light bulb image by David Ng from
  4. 4

    Now, think of a golf ball. This is standard for 1/4-cup servings, standard for nuts, such as pistachios and walnuts, or raisins or a serving of hummus.

    How to Estimate Serving Size
    The golf ball measures approximately 1/4-cup serving. (Golf ball image by Damian Gil from
  5. 5

    Visualise a pencil. The length of a new pencil is the standard by which to measure the single serving size of an ear of corn or a banana.

    How to Estimate Serving Size
    A pencil is a handy reference for some foods. (pencil image by Richard Seeney from
  6. 6

    Remember the size of a deck of cards, which is comparable to a single serving of meat--approximately 85.1gr.

    How to Estimate Serving Size
    A deck of cards measures one 85.1gr portion of meat. (deck of cards image by timur1970 from
  7. 7

    Think of a compact disc. A single CD-ROM is the standard measurement for foods such as one waffle or 28.4gr of deli meat.

    How to Estimate Serving Size
    A CD measures deli meat or one waffle. (cd rom image by Renato Francia from

    Estimating Serving Sizes: The Built-In Method

  1. 1

    Use this for meats and other proteins. According to Tosca Reno, leading health enthusiast, fitness model and author of The Eat Clean Diet, everyone has a built-in serving size estimator in his or her hand. By looking at your hand, you can measure the serving that is right for your body for the basic food groups. For instance, a single serving of meat or protein can be measured by looking at the palm of your hand and eating the amount that would fit there.

  2. 2

    Measure a serving of vegetables by cupping both hands together. The amount of vegetables that would fit in two hands cupped together is one serving. However, a serving size of fruit is equivalent to one piece (apples, bananas, oranges, etc.) or the amount of fruit that would fit in one cupped hand, such as berries.

  3. 3

    Use one cupped hand to measure grains. A single serving of grains such as rice, pasta, quinoa, couscous, or barley can be measured this way. One serving of bread is approximately one slice.

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