Serving Sizes for Common Foods

Serving Sizes for Chicken, Cereal, and Other Common Foods

Measuring Portion Sizes

Verywell

No matter what kind of food you are eating, serving size matters. Even if you are eating nutrient-dense foods, it's helpful to be mindful of what you consume. This can help you eat a balanced diet with lots of variety.

For many commonly eaten foods, it is easy to consume portions that may be larger than you intend. And if you are tracking your intake of calories, fat, sodium, or sugar for weight loss or health needs, you need to know the serving size you're eating to get your nutrition facts right.

The serving sizes listed on labels are not necessarily the recommended portion size. It is simply the amount most people consume when they sit down to eat that food. It might also be the amount of food listed in your automated food log or diet app.

Cereal

Whole grain cereal
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When you last poured cereal into your bowl, you may not have measured it first or checked the Nutrition Facts label to determine its serving size.

For some cereals, one cup is the recommended serving size, and nutrition facts (number of calories, amount of sodium, and so on) are given for that amount. But the American Diabetes Association suggests consuming a 3/4 cup serving.

A 3/4 cup serving of cereal measured in grams will vary by brand and type of cereal. Some cereals are denser such as granola and those containing nuts, while flakes and crisps or other light cereals will weigh substantially less for a 3/4 cup serving size.

If you pour your cereal straight into the bowl, chances are you are eating up to two servings. And if you refill the bowl (as many of us do), you may be eating three to four servings. Try measuring and pouring your cereal out into your most often used bowl to get an idea of how it looks and what to aim for next time without needing to always measure.

Chicken Breast

Chicken
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Lean protein is nutritious, but how much protein you need depends on several factors unique to you, including body size and composition, activity level, age, and more.

The recommended single portion of chicken is 3 to 4 ounces, about the size of a deck of playing cards. Some people use the palm of their hand as a guide. Depending on the vendor, some chicken breasts are two or three times the recommended serving size. 

A 3-ounce serving of cooked chicken is about 85 grams or just over half a cup of chicken. For 4 ounces, it would be 133 grams or about 3/4 cup. Note that measuring chicken in cups is not very precise.

A 3-ounce serving of chicken breast contains 128 calories, 26 grams of protein, and 2.7 grams of fat. Depending on your needs, you may do best with more or less than this.

Hamburger

Hamburger
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If you count your hamburger patty as one serving of beef, you might underestimate your consumed calories.

A quarter-pound burger (4 ounces) is slightly larger than the recommended serving size of 3 ounces. But many burgers, especially those served at restaurants, are 1/3 to 1/2 pound or more. You might be eating more calories and saturated fat than you expected.

Coffee Creamer

pouring coffee creamer into a glass of iced coffee
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Adding flavored creamer to your morning cup of java also adds fat and calories. Fat-free varieties typically have added sugars to compensate for taste, so they still contain calories.

A single serving of liquid creamer is one tablespoon. If you are drinking more than the recommended serving (remember to count each cup of coffee!), the added sugar in your fat-free creamer starts to add up quickly.

The best way to manage portion control is to measure your foods with inexpensive kitchen tools like a measuring cup, spoons, or a digital scale. You can also measure foods without a scale, but calibrated tools are more accurate.

Cooking Spray

spraying cooking spray into a muffin tin
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You reduce or skip the oil or butter when you cook at home. This is an excellent way to reduce calories and fat in your meals. But if you are counting calories, you must also account for the calories in your cooking spray.

A single serving of PAM spray is the amount in a spray lasting just 1/4 of one second. A more typical three-second spray has 60 calories and 3 grams of fat.

Bread

Bread
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If you pack a lunch of a lean meat and vegetable sandwich on whole-grain bread, you are likely consuming a more nutritionally balanced meal than you would if you chose to dine out.

But you may not accurately record the calories in your whole grain bread. A single serving is usually only one slice of bread, and brands can vary substantially from each other. Dense bread can contain twice as many calories as lighter, thin bread. However, thick whole grain bread often offers more nutrients, fiber, and protein, which is an excellent way to nourish, energize and fill you mid-day.

Fruit

fruit platter of blueberries, bananas, apples, and more
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

A serving of fresh fruit is an excellent alternative to a high-fat dessert. But if you are counting your calories or watching your sugar intake, you may wish to monitor how much you are eating.

For example, if you eat a bowl of grapes, you might add one serving of grapes to your food diary. But a single serving of grapes is only one cup or 16 grapes. You can try weighing your fruit by gram for more accurate serving sizes.

Fruit is highly nutrient-dense and filling due to water and fiber content. It is hard to derail a diet by eating a bit more fruit than you planned to. Remember that nutrient density is much more important than calorie counts for healthy eating and weight balance.

Soda

soda
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Sugary drinks are one of the easiest things to overconsume. And the calories and sugar in soda add up, even if you only drink one a day.

A serving size of Coke is 12 ounces and has 144 calories and 39 grams of sugar. But most of us drink more than when we fill up at the soda fountain. A 7-11 Double Gulp contains 50 ounces, which is 600 calories and 162 grams of sugar.

Salad Dressing

Creamy salad dressing
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

A salad loaded with veggies is a high-fiber, nutrient-dense alternative to a high-starch, high-fat meal. But salad dressing can add calories and fat. By some estimates, many restaurant salads contain over 500 calories, most often due to the fatty dressing.

A serving size of salad dressing is just two tablespoons. If you're away from home and order your dressing on the side, be aware that you may get much more.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Diabetes Association. Food and portion size.

  2. USDA, FoodData Central. Chicken, broiler or fryers, breast, skinless, boneless, meat only, cooked, grilled.

  3. USDA, FoodData Central. PAM no-stick cooking spray, original.

  4. USDA, FoodData Central. Coca Cola bottle.

Additional Reading

By Malia Frey
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.