The Cleveland Clinic

Weight Loss:
Controlling How Much You Eat

One of the key ways to maintain a healthy weight is to control your portion sizes. Research has shown that Americans often underestimate how many calories they are consuming each day by as much as 25%

What Does Serving Size Mean?

Use the list below to gain a perspective on how much food a recommended serving size really is; it may be much smaller than you realize.

According to the USDA, 1 serving equals:

  • 1 slice of whole-grain bread
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta
  • 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes
  • 3-4 small crackers
  • 1 small pancake or waffle
  • 2 medium-sized cookies
  • 1/2 cup cooked or raw vegetables
  • 1 cup (4 leaves) lettuce
  • 1 small baked potato
  • 3/4 cup vegetable juice
  • 1 medium apple
  • 1/2 grapefruit or mango
  • 1/2 cup berries
  • 1 cup yogurt or milk
  • 1 1/2 ounces of cheddar cheese
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 medium pork chop
  • 1/4 pound hamburger patty

A good guideline to help you understand portion sizes is to translate the abstract information represented by the serving size into something visual that's easily remembered. So instead of trying to memorize lists of ounces, cups and tablespoons, simply compare the serving sizes of particular foods to familiar physical objects. For example, a single serving of:

  • Vegetables or fruit is about the size of your fist
  • Pasta is about the size of one scoop of ice cream
  • Meat, fish or poultry is the size of a deck of cards or the size of your palm (minus the fingers).
  • Snacks such as pretzels and chips is about the size of a cupped handful
  • Apple is the size of a baseball
  • Potato is the size of a computer mouse
  • Bagel is the size of a hockey puck
  • Pancake is the size of a compact disc
  • Steamed rice is the size of a cupcake wrapper
  • Cheese is the size of a pair of dice or the size of your whole thumb (from the tip to the base)