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How to Create a USDA Weight-loss Plan

Dietary Guidelines Quantities Key
Serving Size Guide
If you're away from home and can't measure your food, these will help you estimate portion size.
  • 1 cup is about the size of a baseball or tennis ball
  • 1/2 cup is about the size of 1/2 of a baseball or tennis ball
  • 2 tablespoons is about the size of a ping-pong ball
  • 1 teaspoon is about the size of one die
  • 1-1/2 ounces of cheese is about the size of 6 stacked dice
  • 3 ounces of meat, fish, or poultry is about the size and thickness of a deck of cards
  • 1 medium potato or other fruit or vegetable is about the size of a medium adult fist

By describing servings in familiar household measurements such as cups and ounces, the Dietary Guidelines have resolved a major source of consumer confusion. The previous guidelines talked about numbers of servings, but it wasn't clear what constituted a serving. Now the Guidelines say to eat two cups of fruit. No more guessing about how much makes a serving and how many servings you should eat.

Dietary Guidelines Quantities Key
The following are equivalents to the quantities recommended in the Guidelines:

Vegetables and fruits
One-half cup of fruit or vegetables is equivalent to:
  • 1/2 cup cut-up raw or cooked fruit or vegetable
  • 1/2 cup fruit or vegetable juice
  • 1 cup leafy salad greens
One ounce-equivalent is the same as:
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta or cooked cereal
  • 1 cup cereal flakes
  • 1 slice bread
  • 1 very small muffin (1 ounce)
  • 1 ounce dry pasta or rice
One cup milk is equivalent to:
  • 1 cup milk, yogurt, or fortified soy milk
  • 1-1/2 ounces natural cheese such as Cheddar
  • 2 ounces processed cheese
Meat and Beans
One ounce-equivalent is the same as:
  • 1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or fish
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cooked dry beans or tofu (count as a protein or vegetable, not both)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds
One teaspoon equivalent is:
  • 1 teaspoon soft margarine
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons light salad dressing
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
All cooking oils plus soft margarines that do not contain any trans fats are included in this category. Because these oils contain vitamin E and essential fatty acids, they are not part of the discretionary calorie allowance below.

Discretionary calories
The allowance for discretionary calories will depend on the specific calorie-level eating plan you are following. Check the label for the number of grams of sugar listed. The same goes for fat; check the labels of food products for the number of grams of fat.

The Guidelines recommend a maximum intake of 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men (see "Alcoholic Beverage Guidelines" below). One serving is equivalent to:
  • 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits
  • 5 fluid ounces of wine
  • 12 fluid ounces of beer

See more alcohol guidelines on the next page.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.