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Healthy Eating

Serving and Portion Sizes: How Much Should I Eat?

Eating a variety of foods from each food group will help you get the nutrients you need.

The Dietary Guidelines suggests that people 50 or older choose foods every day from the following:

Cups and scoopers
  • Fruits—1½ to 2½ cups
  • Vegetables—2 to 3½ cups
  • Grains—5 to 10 ounces
  • Protein foods—5 to 7 ounces
  • Dairy foods—3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Oils—5 to 8 teaspoons
  • Solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS) and sodium (salt)—keep the amount of SoFAS and sodium small

Does this mean you have to measure or weigh everything you eat? Not really. Some people find it helps to measure things carefully at first, but once you get used to your new eating plan, strict measuring probably won’t be necessary. But, what exactly is a serving? And is that different from a portion?

The word "serving" can have different meanings depending on how it is used. A Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Plan serving is how much of each food you should eat to meet the plan’s daily recommendation. (Learn more about serving sizes on the Nutrition Facts label .)

The term "portion" means how much of a single food is actually on your dish—a portion size can vary from meal to meal. For example, one restaurant might serve larger portions than another.

Here are some pictures to help you understand about how much you are eating.

  • baseball
    One cup cooked vegetables, salad, baked potato = baseball
  • four dice
    1 to 1½ ounces cheese = four dice
  • hand
    Three ounces of meat or poultry = palm of hand

Here are some more pictures to help you understand how much you are eating:

  • cupcake liner
    Half cup fruit, beans, rice, noodles, or ice cream = cupcake wrapper, half of a baseball
  • index finger
    One teaspoon margarine or oil = tip of first finger
  • compact disc
    One pancake or tortilla = compact disc

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

For More Information About Eating the Right Amount for Healthy Aging

Choose My Plate

USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center   
National Agricultural Library

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