Serving Sizes: Approximations to Common Items

Food: 1 Serving

1 Serving Item of Equivalent Size
Fruit: 1 Medium 1 Baseball
Fruit juice: 6 fluid oz. Juice glass
Vegetables: 1/2 cup Bulb part of a light bulb
Bagel: 1/2 small 1/2 of a packaged English muffin
Bread: toast 1 slice Slice from standard loaf
Cold Breakfast Cereal: 1 cup (8 oz) Standard teacup
Pasta or rice: 1/2 cup cooked Cupped palm
Meat, chicken, fish: 3 oz. Palm of a woman’s hand
Beans (kidney, pinto, etc.): 1/2 cup (4 oz) Bulb part of a light bulb
Eggs: 1 (replaces 1 oz. meat) 1 Large egg
Peanut butter: 2 tablespoons Size of 1 whole walnut shell
Cheese: 1 ounce (oz) 2 dominos
Milk, yogurt: 1 cup Standard yogurt container

Soy milk: 1 cup

Standard yogurt container

Chips, snack foods: 1 ounce

(about 1/2 cup)



Butter: 1 teaspoon (tsp.)

1 pat

Salad dressing: 1 tablespoon (T or tbs)

1/2 walnut shell full
Sugar: 1 teaspoon

1 packet

Cream Cheese: 1 tablespoon

1 packet

Whipping Cream (Light): 1 tablespoon

Size of 1 marshmallow

Half and Half : 1 tablespoon

1/2 walnut shell full
Most beverage glasses are 12 oz. or greater in size.  

2005 USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) Food Guide Pyramid recommends the following servings:

1. Fats, sweets and oils: Use sparingly; less than 10% of daily food intake.

2. Milk, Yogurt and Cheese Group: 2-3 Servings

Example of Total Servings for the Day: 1 - 8 oz. glass of skim milk ( 1 cup equivalent or 1 standard yogurt containers equivalent), 2 dominos size of cheese (1 ounce equivalent) (Total = 2 servings).

3. Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs and Nuts Group: 2-3 Servings

Example of Total Servings for the Day: 1 Boiled egg, 1 piece of baked white fish the size of the palm of a woman’s hand (3 ounce equivalent), a small handfull of raw almonds (1 ounce equivalent, 10 nuts?) (Total = 3 servings).

4. Vegetable Group: 3-5 Servings

Example of Total Servings for the Day: 1 cup of broccoli (equivalent is the size of two bulbs of a light bulb), 1 whole baked potato (the equivalent is the size of two bulbs of a light bulb) (Total = 4 Servings).

5. Fruit Group: 2-4 Servings

Example of Total Servings for the Day: 1 - 6 oz. juice glass of orange juice, 1 average size apple (equivalent is an apple the size of a baseball), 1 banana ( 2 halves side by side equivalent is the size of a baseball) (Total = 3 Servings).

6. Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta Group: 6-11 Servings

Example of Total Servings for the Day: 1 piece of toast, 1 whole bagel (1 whole English muffin equivalent), 1 teacup size bowl of cold cereal (1/2 cup equivalent), two cupped palms of a woman’s hand of spaghetti without sauce (one cup equivalent), and 1 small dinner roll ( 1/2 of English muffin equivalent) (Total = 7 Servings).

To keep track of daily servings go to: Nutrition and Energy Log Spreadsheet. The sheet is color coded to match the above groups.

Athletes need a sports diet balanced for good nutrition consisting of 60-65% of calories from carbohydrates, 10-15% from protein and 20-30% from fat. Meals should be carbohydrate based but not exclusively of carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates provide the energy an athlete needs for hard practices and competitions. Excess intake is stored by the body as fat. If too few carbohydrates are ingested the body fuels itself with the next available source—protein; that is, your muscles.

Protein serves to build and protect muscles. Too much protein can make you feel sluggish. Excess intake is stored by the body as fat.

Fats are necessary to satiate the appetite, provide insulation and protect the vital organs but can clog arteries and cause other health problems. Too much fat can lower stamina by taking the place of necessary carbohydrates that aren’t being eaten. Excess intake is stored by the body as fat.

Fruits and vegetables provide some of the best sources of vitamins and minerals. Some of the best choices are:


Dark Green Vegetables: greens (collards, beet and mustard greens, dandelion greens, turnip greens, kale), chinese cabbage (bok-choy, pak-choy, pe-tsai), spinach, romaine lettuce, chard, watercress, endive, escarole, green peppers (jalapeno, chili), broccoli, brussels sprouts, parsley, fiddlehead ferns.

Green Vegetables: peas, cabbage (white and green), cilantro, asparagus, green beans, green peppers (sweet), celery, runner beans.

Orange Vegetables: pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash (acorn, butternut, hubbard) habanero peppers, yellow peppers, yellow beans, yellow summer squash, corn (yellow and white).

Red Vegetables: tomatoes, red peppers (sweet and hot), red cabbage.

Other: Ancho peppers, serrano peppers, pasilla peppers, potatoes, radishes, turnips (cooked), rutabaga, green onions, glove artichoke, vegetable juice (100%).



Orange: apricots, dried apricots, mangos, papayas, cantaloupe, oranges, orange juice (100%), guava, tangerines.

Yellow: bananas, grapefruit (red and pink), grapefruit juice (100%), apple juice (100%).

Red: watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, cherries (sweet and sour), red apples.

Green: kiwi, avocado.

Blue/Purple: prunes, blackberries, blueberriesblack and zante currants, grape juice (100%), purple plums.

Other: dried figs, raisins, dates.

Make sure you get some of each of the different color groups of fruits and vegetables each week.


Clark N. Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Human Kinetics. 1989.
WebMD Medical Reference in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic: 1/9/2004.

Mortimore D. The Complete Illustrated Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. London. 2001.

Natow AB and Heslin J. The Vitamin and Mineral Food Counter. New York, NY: Pocket Books. 2004.

USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP). 2005.


Last updated 1/25/2006 by MIT Sports Medicine: K Davis

Copyright 2005 by MIT