For years I’ve said Americans are overweight because of “portion distortion”. We have become an “on a diet” “off a diet” “good food” “bad food” society and have lost all grip on the reality of what constitutes an actual single serving of a food or of what a nutritionally balanced food plan even looks like.


First of all, not all calories are created equal. Different macronutrients are processed by the body differently and chemical and preservatives also impact the way a “calorie” is processed. You can read more about this in my article  “Is Your Diet Making You Fatter? TEF, Your Fat Loss Secret Weapon”


While there are foods that are healthier than others (you can get my list of best and worst flat belly foods HERE), working just about any food into your food plan comes down to the basics. Achieving the body of your dreams (and keeping it) comes down to eating whole foods in the correct amount for your body, fitness program and goals 90% of the time.

If you master that, the other 10% won’t matter and you will be living in the body of your dreams without ever  being hungry, counting  another calorie or excluding your favorite foods. .

Servings and Exchanges are the key  to getting into and staying in the body of your dreams without ever  counting another calorie !

Serving” defined:  A serving isn’t just the amount you put on your plate. A serving is really a specific amount of food, defined by common measurements such as cups, ounces or pieces.

“Portions” are simply the number of servings from each of the Food Groups that you are allocated each day to achieve your fitness goals. (ie; lose fat, gain muscle, maintain your healthy weight”

Typically, the first thing I hear upon presenting a new food plan to a client is “That’s a lot of food, much more than I eat now.” Upon examining food labels and measuring food, most clients realize that a  single serving  is typically much smaller than they had realized.

For example,  1 serving of pasta, cereal or rice is 1/2 c with a serving of Quinoa being 1/4 c.

So, while you may have a “serving” of pasta, rice or dressing at your local restaurant, in reality, you are eating triple or quadruple a TRUE serving. If you are want to shed those pounds and keep them off, the key to your success  is to be aware of real single serving sizes and proper macronutrient break downs for your body’s needs.

Serving sizes for other food groups may also seem small.

Take a look at the following  serving sizes and portions recommended by the USRDA. Getting all of your daily servings and necessary nutrients may not be as hard as you think.

I want to issue this challenge to you. For the next 30 days, ask yourself 3 questions for every food you encounter. If you learn to do this, I guarantee you a body you love without ever being hungry, avoiding your favorite foods or counting another calorie ever again ! Come join us in our facebook community. I’d love to hear  your experiences.

1. What Group Does It Go In

2. How much is a single serving

3. How Many Servings to I need a day?

Grains (Breads, Cereals, Pasta, Rice, etc)

1 Servings is equal to:

Cooked cereal, rice or pasta               1/2 cup

Ready-to-eat cereal                            1/4  – 1/2 cup

Whole-wheat sandwich bread              1 Slice

1/2 can soda (not recommended)

Beans & Legumes                                 1/2 cup

Quinioa                                             1/4 cup

Dairy products 

  1 serving is equal to: 

Low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt          1 cup

Natural cheese, such as cheddar             1  ounce

Greek Yogurt                                       1/2 cup

Eggs                                                    2 whole

Egg Whites                                           7


Meat & Fish    

1 serving is equal to:

Cooked skinless poultry, seafood or lean meat  – 2 to 3 ounces

(20-25 grams of Protein)


1 serving is equal to:


Chopped, cooked or canned fruit          1/2 cup

Orange, apple, banana or pear             1 med or 1/2 lg

100-percent fruit juice                                    1/2  c    * not recommended


1 serving is equal to:

Raw leafy vegetables                              1 cup

Cooked or chopped vegetables                 1/2 cup

Chopped vegetables, raw                        1 cup

100-percent vegetable juice                    3/4 cup


  1 serving is equal to:

Almonds                                           8

Pistachios                                       16

Walnuts                                           2 or 4 halves

Oil, butter                                        1 tsp

Flax                                                1 tbs

Avocado                                         1/4

Olives                                             5

4.5 g or more in packaged foods

2 eggs

1 oz cheese

2 Eggs

4 Oz Beef

1 Oz cheese

Judging  a serving size is a learned skill.  I typically recommend that clients  use measuring cups, spoons and a scale until they are comfortable with their “eyeballing” techniques. (usually a month or 2) In order to get an idea of what a serving looks like, consider these everyday equivalents:

3 ounces chicken or fish  –       Deck of cards or the size of your (small) palm (generally a small boned female)

1 cup of vegetables-               Size of your fist (see above) ( for those of you who know me,   my fist barely fits into a 1c measuring cup)For those of you who don’t the  the point is, it’s small)

Medium apple –                       Size of a baseball

1/2 cup pasta, cooked                Ice cream scoop


1  ounce cheese                      Pair of dice or pair of dominos or a small thumb

1 teaspoon butter or margarine     Tip of your thumb (again a small thumb)


Dianne Villano
Author: Dianne Villano

Dianne Villano is an MExPhys, NASM CFT , author of “How To Lose Fat & Reshape Your Body in 21 Days” and “The Ultimate Belly Blast Program”. She is president of Custom Bodies which has been serving the Tampa Bay with cutting edge nutrition & fitness programs for 18 years. Miss Villano is a frequent speaker on health and fitness related topics with articles published in over 20 media outlets.

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