The serving size
of a food product is a
confusing term, as it is found both on the Food Pyramid
and on Nutrition
Labels and has two related but differing
meanings. The USDA Center for
Nutrition Policy and Promotion sets the standards for these
meanings in the United
The purpose of The Food Pyramid is to assist people in meeting
daily nutrient recommendations while providing relatively few
serving sizes for each food group.
According to the USDA, serving sizes in the Pyramid are determined
through four factors:
- Consideration of typical portion sizes from food consumption
- Convenience in relation to common measuring sizes.
- Nutrient content.
- Sizes from previous guides.
Some food groups receive different emphasis than others. See
for recommended daily
Nutrition Facts Label
Nutrition Facts Label Serving Sizes are specific in their
nutritional information to allow for easy comparison with other
similar foods. Consumers may visualize important nutritional
variations without excessive calculation. While designed for easy
comparison with other similar products, such as Coke
vs. Diet Coke
vs. Frosted Flakes
, the label is not meant for
direct comparison with the Food Pyramid's recommended
Serving sizes on Nutrition Facts Labels are loosely based on
the amount of a product normally eaten in one sitting
, determined from nationwide food
consumption surveys. The variation in caloric content per serving
from product to product is normally because of the reference
amount, not because of any set value or common unit.
Reference amounts affect serving sizes in one of three ways:
One serving of grain:
- Bulk products, such as sugar, have sizes in common units of
measurement, such as the cup or tablespoon, to show the quantity
closest to the reference amount.
- Commonly divided products, such as pie or cake, have a serving
size given in a fraction of the whole product (e.g.,
- Products which are sliced beforehand or are bought in distinct,
grouped units (such as olives), are listed in the approximate
number of units corresponding to the reference amount. For example,
if the reference amount for olives were 30 g, and one olive
weighed 10 g, the serving size would probably be listed as
one cup of whole grain
cereal, one fourth of a bagel, one cup of pasta.
One serving of vegetables:
five cherry tomatoes,
five sticks of celery, one whole carrot.
One serving of fruit:
a medium apple, fifteen
large grapes, half a banana.
One serving of dairy:
one cup of milk, three
cheese cubes, half cup of low fat cottage cheese.
One serving of meat:
1/4 chicken breast, daily
guide line: one fist full per meal.
Fats and Sugars:
as little as possible, dairy and
meat contain plenty of necessary fat, while fruits contain enough
First-time dieters can find the process of calculating serving
sizes and calorie counting confusing, and due to the nature of the
sheer volume of variety of supermarket products, serving sizes are
How is "serving size" on the nutrition label