Planning meals according to portion sizes can be an effective way to maintain or lose weight and to eat a nutritious diet. While processed foods often carry nutrition labels outlining portion size and a nutritional breakdown, prepared foods, such as rice and steak or meals prepared by others, carry no such labels. Knowing how to recognize common portion sizes by sight can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle whenever you eat. Oftentimes, comparing serving sizes to other familiar items, such as a baseball, a light bulb, a deck of cards or a checkbook can be helpful.
When it comes to measuring a single portion of meat, about 3 ounces (85 grams) of cooked fish, beef or poultry is approximately the size of a deck of cards or a bar of soap. The portion size of a piece of cooked fish also resembles a checkbook. A small portion of a single ounce (28 grams) of cooked meat is closer to the size of a matchbox, while a large portion of meat, closer to 8 ounces (227 grams), is about the size of a paperback book.
One can measure individual portion sizes of starches by thinking of sports. For example, one cup of cooked rice or pasta is roughly the size of a tennis ball. One small or mini bagel is about the size of a hockey puck.
Vegetable portion sizes can also correspond to sports equipment. One cup of salad is approximately the size of a baseball or a clenched fist. One half of a cup of cauliflower is around half of a baseball, or the size of a light bulb.
Sometimes, equating the size of one food with another can help determine portion size. For example, a small portion of raisins, or one quarter of a cup, is around the size of an egg. One serving of dry beans or peas typically can fit inside a cupcake wrapper. One portion size of mashed potatoes or corn, or one half of a cup, would fit inside an ice cream scoop.
Small portion sizes, such as a teaspoon of salad dressing, are roughly the same size as the tip of a finger, and one tablespoon is closer to the tip of a thumb. Two tablespoons of butter or peanut butter are similar in size to a ping pong ball. A cupped hand holds approximately 2 ounces (57 grams) of liquid. One can visualize a single portion size of cheese, or 1 ounce (28 grams), by imagining a cube comprised of four dice.