When planning a family menu, you're really planning a collection of meals. And each meal is a collection of portions. The question of how much do you have to cook for a meal translates into how many portions do you need (or want)?
Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta
1 slice of bread
1/2 bagel or 1/2 English muffin or 1/2 pita
1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal
1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta
1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw
1/2 cup of vegetable juice
1 medium apple, banana, orange
1 cup berries, cubed melon
1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit
1/2 cup of fruit juice
Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese
1 cup milk
1 cup yogurt (artificially sweetened)
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup cottage cheese or ricotta
1 ounce cheese
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts
1 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
1/2 cup of cooked dry beans or 1 egg counts as 1 ounce of lean meat.
2 tablespoons of peanut butter or 1/3 cup of nuts count as 1 ounce of meat.
1 teaspoon oil, butter, margarine, mayonnaise
1 tablespoon salad dressing, cream cheese
Another form of reference:
Fist or baseball - a serving of vegetables or fruit
A rounded handful - about one half cup cooked or raw veggies or cut fruit, a piece of fruit, or ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta
Deck of cards - a serving of meat, fish or poultry
Golf ball - one quarter cup of dried fruit or nuts
Tennis ball - one half cup of ice cream
Computer mouse - the size of a small baked potato
Compact disc - the size of one serving of pancake or small waffle
Thumb tip - one teaspoon of peanut butter
Six dice - a serving of cheese
Check book - a serving of fish
For fun, try the Portion Distortion Quiz - it's very enlightening, if somewhat scarey.
Sources: about.com, mealsmatter.org, National Institute of Health.