Portion Sizes: Twelve Tips for Eating Smaller Portions of Food

One step to losing weight is understanding serving and portion sizes. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services “A portion is the amount of food that you choose to eat for a meal or snack. It can be big or small—you decide. A serving is a measured amount of food or drink, such as one slice of bread or one cup (eight ounces) of milk.” (1) Learn how to quickly measure a serving size as well as 12 tips for eating smaller portion sizes.

Quick Measurements for Serving Sizes

You may feel like you don’t have time to measure serving sizes. These quick serving-size measurement guides should help you get close:


Grain Products  

1 cup of cereal flakes…fist
1 pancake…compact disc
½ cup of rice, pasta OR potato…1/2 baseball

Dairy & Cheese
1.5 oz. cheese…4 dice
½ cup ice cream…1/2 baseball

1 tsp. butter…1 die

Vegetables & Fruits
1 cup of salad greens…baseball
1 medium fruit…baseball
½ cup fresh fruit…1/2 baseball
¼ cup raisins…large egg

Meat & Alternatives
3 oz. meat or poultry…deck of cards
3 oz. grilled/baked fish…checkbook
2 tbsp. peanut butter…ping pong ball


Serving Size – Digital Food Gallery

Choose my Plate has a digital food gallery that shows foods and their
serving sizes for fruits, grains, vegetables,
proteins, beans, peas, dairy, and oils.
Serving Size of Rice

Whole & Refined Grains


Protein Foods

Beans and Peas




Changes in Portion Size

The National Institutes of Health created two PowerPoint presentations that show how serving sizes have changed over the last twenty years. Here are some of the examples that they share in their presentation:

Food 20 Years Ago Today
Bagel 140 calories/3-inch diameter 350 calories/6-inch diameter
Cheeseburger 333 calories 590 calories
One Serving of French Fries 210 calories in 2.4 ounces 610 calories in 6.9 ounces
2 large sizes of Pizza 500 calories 850 calories
One Serving of Chicken Stir Fry 435 calories/2 cups 856 calories/4.5 cups
One Muffin 210 calories/1.5 ounces 500 calories/4 ounces

Even food that is good for you, like a chicken Caesar salad, has increased in size and calories over the last twenty years.

Portion Sizes Infographic

Portion size can be defined as “the amount of food or drink a person chooses to eat or drink at one time.” This infographic, created by we can! not only shows portion sizes for pizza, popcorn, bagels, and soda but it also shares a few reasons why it may be hard to eat or drink a healthy portion.





Twelve Tips for Eating Smaller Portions of Food

The infographic above lists a few tips for eating smaller portion sizes. There are other things you can do, including:

  • Use a smaller bowl or plate when you eat.
  • Know healthy portion sizes for your favorite foods – including the foods you it at restaurants.
  • Eat foods that are high in fiber. Start your meal with fiber-rich foods.
  • Plan your meals.
  • Use portion control plates or divide your plate into fourths. Half of your plate should contain vegetables. One fourth of your plate should contain protein. The remaining fourth should contain whole grains or starch vegetables. (2)
  • When you are full, stop eating!
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • While eating out, don’t upgrade to medium or large.
  • Know what times of day you get hungry and have a healthy snack on hand for those times.
  • Drink a large glass of water with meals.
  • Eat snacks that have protein.
  • Have fruits and vegetables sliced and ready to go for your next snack attack.


1: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/eat-right/distortion.htm
2: IN.FORM coach’s manual