Last updated on: 2/27/2013 | Author: ProCon.org

Portion Sizes: How Big or Small Should They Be?

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, see graphic to the right), the average American portion size has increased dramatically since the 1950s with the average restaurant meal being four times as large. American adults weigh, on average, 26 pounds more today than in the 1950s. A Jan. 2013 Public Health and Nutrition Journal study found that 96% of entrees at chain restaurants exceeded dietary guidelines for fat, sodium, and saturated fat–some coming close to exceeding recommended daily intake maximums for sodium with just one meal. See below for the recommended serving sizes of common foods according to the CDC, FDA, and other experts.   

Breakfast Foods

Lunch & Dinner Foods

Snack & Dessert Foods

cdc the new abnormal portion sizes 1950s
Breakfast Foods
one serving of cereal the volume of a wine glass
cereal portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizewine glass portion size
   
one bagel a hockey puck
bagel portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizehockey puck portion size
   
one muffin a light bulb
muffin portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizelight bulb portion size
   
one serving of pancakes a CD
pancake portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizecd portion size
   
one serving of butter a Scrabble tile
butter portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizescrabble tile portion size
   
one serving of juice a hockey puck
juice portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizehockey puck portion size
   
one serving of waffles a CD
waffle portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizecd portion size
Lunch & Dinner Foods
one serving of steak a deck of cards or the palm of your hand
steak portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizedeck of cards portion
   
one serving of fish a checkbook
fish portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizecheckbook portion size
    

 

one serving of dry spaghetti a quarter
spghetti portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizequarter portion size
   
one serving of cooked rice or pasta a tennis ball
rice portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizetennis ball portion size
  

 

  
one medium baked potato a computer mouse
baked potato portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizecomputer mouse portion size
    

 

one dinner roll a yo-yo
dinner roll portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizeyo yo portion size
   
one serving of chopped raw vegetables a baseball
chopped vegetables portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizebaseball portion size
  

 

  
one serving of salad dressing a shot glass
salad dressing portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizeshot glass portion size
   
one serving of cooked vegetables a billiard ball
cooked vegetables portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizebilliard ball portion size
   
one serving of oil one die
oil portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizedie portion size
   
one serving of chopped raw fruit a baseball or woman’s fist
chopped fruit portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizebaseball portion size
   

 

  
a hamburger patty a mayonnaise jar lid
hamburger patty portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizemayonnaise jar lid portion size
   

 

  
one serving of beans a billiard ball
beans portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizebilliard ball portion size
   

 

  
one serving of mashed potatoes half an apple
mashed potatoes portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizehalf apple portion size
   

 

  
one serving of lasagna two hockey pucks
lasagna portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizetwo hockey pucks portion size
Snack & Dessert Foods

 

one serving of cheese six dice
cheese portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizesix dice portion size
   
one serving of pretzels or chips a tennis ball
pretzel portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizetennis ball portion size
   
one serving of peanut butter a ping-pong ball
peanut butter portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizeping pong ball portion size
   
one serving of nuts or dried fruit a golf ball
nut portion sizesshould be the size of arrow portion sizegolf ball portion size
   
one serving of ice cream a tennis ball
ice cream portion sizeshould be the size of arrow portion sizetennis ball portion size

 

Sources:  

Huffington Post, “The New (Ab)Normal: Portion Sizes Today vs. In the 1950s (Infographic),” www.huffingtonpost.com, May 23, 2012

Tanya Mancini, “Portion Size,” www.thatsfit.com, Dec. 3, 2009

Men’s Health Editors, “12 Easy Ways to Estimate Serving Sizes,” www.menshealth.com (accessed Feb. 13, 2013)

Nicole Nichols, “The Portion Distortion Guide,” www.sparkpeople.com (accessed Feb. 13, 2013)

US National Library of Medicine, US Department of Health and Human Services, and National Institutes of Health, “Portion Size,” www.nlm.nih.gov, Jan. 24, 2013

Jackie Wicks, “How to Learn Portion Control… …A Guide to Quickly Teach You the Basics of Portion Control,” www.peertrainer.com (accessed on Feb. 28, 2013)

Helen W. Wu and Roland Sturm, “What’s on the Menu? A Review of the Energy and Nutritional Content of US Chain Restaurant Menus,” Public Health Nutrition website, Jan. 2013