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Visual Cues Help You Choose Sensible Portions

Compiled by Allison Dhuyvetter, Program Assistant

As anticipation of family gatherings and all the wonderful foods of the season approach, we all need to be mindful of just how much we are eating. Choosing healthful, nutrient-dense foods is a great start, but we also need to keep in mind the portions of food we take. A portion of food is the amount of food that is eaten at one time. Consuming portions of food in excess of what we need has the potential to lead to weight gain and the potential multitude of related health-related problems associated with being overweight or obese. Some of these visual cues can help you understand and remember what a portion of different foods looks like.  Visit to learn more about your own calorie needs.


If you are hosting or helping prepare a meal for the holidays, consider cutting foods into smaller portions, such as one or two bite squares for desserts. Studies have shown that people eat more when given larger servings so help your friends and family by serving smaller portions. Set out smaller sample plates and use smaller serving spoons. Careful enjoyment is the key to eating healthful this holiday season.


Size Up Your Servings with These Visual Cues


Beef, poultry or fish: 3 ounces (dollar bill, checkbook or an iPod)

Pancake: 1 pancake (CD/DVD)

Bread: 1 slice (index card)

Cornbread or roll: 1 slice or roll (bar of soap)

Peanut butter: 2 tablespoons (ping pong ball)

Olive oil: 1 teaspoon (standard postage stamp)

Margarine: 1 teaspoon (1 dice)

Cheese: 2 ounces (3 to 4 dice)

Nuts: 1 ounces (golf ball or 1 handful)

Chips or pretzels: 1 ounce (2 handfuls)

Cake: 1 slice (3 inches square or 1/12 of cake)

Fruit, vegetables or whole grains: 1 cup (baseball or fist) and ½ cup (light bulb or 2 golf balls)





American Heart Association. (n.d.). Serving size visuals.

Benton, D. (2015). Portion size: What we know and what we need to know. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 55(7), 988–1004. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2012.679980

University of Wisconsin Health. (2007). Diabetes management: sweets and desserts.

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Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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