Serving Sizes

What we call a serving size today is larger than it was in the past. A 1950s fast-food burger contained little more than 1 oz of meat, and a soft drink was 8 oz (1 cup). Today, a "quarter pounder" burger is at least 4 times that amount, and a 32 or 64 oz drink is not uncommon.

A possible guide for eating when trying to lose weight is to eat about half as much as you normally do. Some estimates of serving sizes are:

  • 1 Dairy serving:Individual container of yogurt (8 oz) or piece of cheese the size of your thumb (1 oz).

  • 1 Grain serving: 1 slice of bread or ½ cup pasta.

  • 1 Meat serving: The size of a deck of cards (3 oz).

  • 1 Fruit serving:½ cup canned fruit or 1 medium fruit.

  • 1 Vegetable serving: ½ cup of cooked or canned vegetables.

  • 1 Fat serving:The size of 4 stacked dimes.

Experts suggest spending 1 or 2 days measuring food portions you commonly eat. This will give you better practice at estimating serving sizes, and will also show whether you are eating an appropriate amount of food to meet your weight goals. If you find that you are eating more than you thought, try measuring your food for a few days so you can "reprogram" yourself to learn what makes a healthy portion for you.


  • In restaurants, share entrees, or ask the waiter to put half the entrée in a box or bag before you even touch it.

  • Order lunch-sized portions. Many restaurants serve 4 to 6 oz of meat at lunch, compared with 8 to 10 oz at dinner.

  • Split dessert or skip it all together. Have a piece of fruit when you get home.

  • At home, use smaller plates and bowls. It will look as if you are eating more.

  • Plate your food in the kitchen rather than serving it "family style" at the table.

  • Wait 20 to 30 minutes before taking seconds. This is how long it takes your brain to recognize that you are full.

  • Check food labels for serving sizes. Eat 1 serving only.

  • Use measuring cups and spoons to see proper serving sizes.

  • Buy smaller packages of candy, popcorn, and snacks.

  • Avoid eating directly out of the bag or carton.

  • While eating half as much, exercise twice as much. Park further away from the mall, take the stairs instead of the escalator, and walk around your block.

Losing weight is a slow, difficult process. It takes long-lasting lifestyle changes. You can make gradual changes over time so they become habits. Look to friends and family to support the healthy changes you are making. Avoid fad diets since they are often only temporary weight loss solutions.