Do you ever feel like the serving sizes on food labels, in restaurant portions and what you’re hungry for don’t line up? If you’re looking for a simple way to eat healthy, use this handy serving size chart to get the right balance of nutrition on your plate.
The American Heart Association recommends an overall healthy dietary pattern tailored to your personal and cultural food preferences. Emphasize a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and liquid, non-tropical plant oils. If you eat poultry or red meat, choose lean or extra lean meats or skinless poultry. Choose foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed where possible. And balance energy intake (calories eaten) and output (physical activity) to maintain a healthy body weight. It’s all about making healthier choices.
What’s a serving?
A serving size is a guide. It’s not a recommendation of how much to eat or drink.
The Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods will show the calories and nutrients in a typically consumed serving size. It may be more or less than you usually eat, so you might need to do a little math to figure out the calories in a portion.
Be aware of “portion distortion.” The suggested serving size is often less than the amount you typically eat or are served, especially at restaurants.
What and how much should you eat?
Here are the recommended number of daily or weekly servings for adults of each food group based on eating a total of 2,000 calories per day. Your calorie needs may be different, depending on your age, activity level and whether you are trying to lose, gain or maintain your weight.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to measure everything you eat. We’ve provided a few examples of what represents one serving of common foods. You may eat more than one serving from a food group in a meal, or fewer than one in another meal. As long as you are getting the recommended daily amounts on average over two to three days, you’ll be on target.
- Wide variety of vegetables; fresh, frozen, canned or dried1
- Two and a half (2 1/2) servings of vegetables per day, including dark green, red/orange, starchy and other)
- Examples of one vegetable serving:
- 2 cups raw leafy salad greens
- 1 cup cut-up vegetables
- 1 cup 100% vegetable juice, low-sodium or no-salt-added2
- Wide variety of fruits; fresh, frozen, canned or dried1
- Two (2) servings of fruit per day
- Examples of one fruit serving:
- One medium whole fruit
- 1 cup cut-up fruit
- 1 cup 100% fruit juice2
- ½ cup dried fruit1
- Whole grain rather than refined grain products
- Six (6) servings of grains per day
- Examples of one serving of grains:
- One slice bread
- One small tortilla
- 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal flakes
- 1 ounce (⅛ cup) uncooked pasta or rice
- ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal
- 3 cups popped popcorn
- Low-fat and fat-free
- Three (3) servings per day
- Examples of one dairy serving:
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1 ounce cheese
- Mostly from plant sources (legumes and nuts); fish and seafood; nonfat and low-fat dairy products in place of full-fat versions; if you eat meat, lean cuts and skinless poultry; avoid processed meats.
- Five and a half-ounce (5 ½-ounce) equivalents of protein per day including:
- 5 ounces per week of nuts, seeds, beans, peas or lentils
- 6 to 8 ounces per week of seafood, preferably oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, cobia, striped bass, herring or sardines
- Examples of one ounce protein equivalents:
- 1/4 cup cooked beans, peas or lentils
- 1/4 cup or 2 ounces tofu
- 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds or 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- 1 ounce cooked seafood, meat or poultry
- One egg or two egg whites
Fats and Oil
- Liquid plant oils instead of tropical oils (coconut, palm and palm kernel) and animal fats (lard and butter) or partially hydrogenated fats
- 3 tablespoons of fat and oil per day (or 9 teaspoons)
- Examples of one serving fats and oil:
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (canola, corn, olive, soybean, safflower)
- 1 tablespoon soft margarine
- 1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon light salad dressing
1 Frozen, canned and dried produce can be as nutritious as fresh. Compare nutrition information on package labels and choose products with the lowest amounts of added sugars and sodium. Look for vegetables without salty sauces and fruits packed in their own juices or water instead of heavy syrup. Drain and rinse canned produce and beans.
2 One cup of 100% juice can fulfill one of your recommended daily servings of fruit or vegetables. But keep in mind, juice isn’t as filling as whole fruits and vegetables and may have extra calories and less nutrients such as fiber. Avoid sweetened juice and juice drinks.
3 Includes nondairy nut/grain/soy-based milks that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D and with no added sugar.