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 make room for 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. This pattern can include a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, fish, skinless poultry, nuts and fat-free/low-fat dairy products. It should avoid trans fat and limit added sugars, fatty or processed meats, solid fats and salty or highly processed foods. It’s all about making smart 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 the portion you choose to eat.
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.
- Fresh, frozen, canned and dried1
- Two and a half (2 ½) servings of vegetables per day, including dark green, red/orange, beans/peas/lentils, starchy and other)
- Examples of one vegetable serving:
- 2 cups raw leafy salad greens
- 1 cup cut-up vegetables
- 1 cup cooked pulses (beans, peas, lentils)2
- 1 cup 100% vegetable juice, low-sodium or no-salt-added3
- Fresh, frozen, canned and 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 juice3
- ½ cup dried fruit1
- At least half should be whole grain
- 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
- Lean and extra-lean meat; poultry without skin; eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, legumes
- Five and a half-ounce (5 ½-ounce) equivalents of protein per day including:
- 6 to 8 ounces per week of seafood, preferably oily fish like salmon or mackerel
- 5 ounces per week of nuts, seeds, beans, peas or lentils
- Examples of one ounce protein equivalents:
- 1 ounce cooked meat, poultry or seafood
- One egg or two egg whites
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- ½ ounce nuts or seeds
- ¼ cup cooked beans, peas or lentils2
- ¼ cup or 2 ounces tofu
Fats and Oil
- Avoid trans fat (this can be found in the ingredient list as “partially hydrogenated oils”)
- Preferably unsaturated
- 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 Cooked beans, peas and lentils can count in the protein or vegetable groups.
3 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 like fiber. Avoid sweetened juice and juice drinks.
4 Includes nondairy nut/grain/soy-based milks that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D and low in sugar.