Health Bites: Portion control
Health Bites

Health Bites: Portion control


Practicing portion control is not only useful for successful weight loss goal attainment but also for establishing and teaching balanced and healthful eating practices in general.

That being said, the idea of portion control is sometimes easier to conceptualize than to implement. To many, practicing portion control and interpreting serving sizes is akin to obsessively measuring every morsel and beverage consumed throughout the day. True -- it is difficult to “eyeball” a cup, two tablespoons, or four ounces without resorting to measuring each item individually. It's also true that measurement is an important aspect of accurately evaluating the size of a given food item or drink; however, this does not require a fancy kitchen scale, sophisticated knowledge of the metric system, or a 36-hour day.

Successful portion control can occur with the use of simple, everyday items and references to help gauge the appropriate serving size. As you prepare to cook or consume your next meal, keep these following items in mind to help take the guesswork out of meal management.

The following items are reference tools to approximate a specific serving size.

  • Baseball = 1 cup
  • Tennis ball = ¾ cup
  • Computer mouse = ½ cup
  • Large egg = ¼ cup
  • Deck of cards = 3 ounces
  • 9-volt battery = 2 ounces
  • Ping pong or golf ball = 2 tablespoons
  • Standard postage stamp = 1 teaspoon
  • CD cover = 1 ounce (one slice) of bread

It is much simpler to visualize these items than it is to picture two ounces or one cup. Now, apply these “rules” to the food you prepare and serve.


A serving of rice, pasta, or oatmeal is about the size of ½ of a baseball while an entire baseball represents about a cup of dry cereal.


A tennis ball can represent the size of a single serving of fruit such as an orange, apple, or pear.


A single serving baked potato should be about the size of a computer mouse and a serving of vegetables (chopped or a salad) is about the size of a baseball (or equal to 1 cup).


A reasonable serving size of lean poultry or beef is approximately 3 ounces or equal to the size of a deck of cards. A 3 ounce serving of grilled or baked fish is about the size of a checkbook. Peanut butter, on the other hand, is 2 tablespoons or roughly the size of a ping-pong ball.


Milk or yogurt servings are approximately 1 cup or equivalent to the size of a baseball. A single serving of ice cream is half of a baseball or ½ cup. A 9-volt battery can serve as a reference item for a serving of cheese (between 1.5 and 2 ounces depending on the type of cheese).


A teaspoon of butter, oil, or salad dressing is about the size of a standard postage stamp.

While these reference items are useful and provide visual “cues” to gauge how much is served and how much is consume, kitchen scales and other measuring devices are, of course, the most accurate, but not required in order to develop the practice of portion control. Always be sure to read the nutrition facts panel to determine what the suggested serving size and review the list of ingredients for nutrient quality and minimal processing.

Erin Nitschke is director of health and human performance at Sheridan College. She can be reached at Read her blog for the Wellness Council of Sheridan County.



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