What are recommended serving sizes?

Cheryl Tallman
Nutrition & Dietetics
Parents often wonder how much food should their little ones (1-2 years old) be eating.
Recent media coverage suggests over the past 20 years, restaurants and food companies have been increasing their serving sizes. This trend is considered to be a contributing factor in the rise in obesity (among adults and children).
We all know that children should eat less than adults. After all, they are smaller. The following are some serving size guidelines for a 1-2 year old that may help you out.
Milk/Dairy: Servings: 16-20 ounces of milk per day. Whole milk, soy or rice milk are recommended. Other equivalents: 1/2 -3/4 ounce of cheese = 4 ounces of milk. 1/4 cup of yogurt = 2 ounces of milk.
Fruits and veggies: Servings: 5 or more per day. Serving size: 1-2 tablespoons - Pureed, mashed, or cubed.
Grains: Servings: 3-4 per day. Serving sizes: 1/2 slice of bread, 1/4 cup of cooked cereal, 1/4 cup of dry cereal. 1/4 cup of pasta, 2-3 saltine crackers, or 1/2 tortilla.
Non-dairy Proteins (meat, fish, beans, eggs): Servings: 2 per day. Serving sizes: 1/2 egg, 2-3 tablespoons beans (i.e. black, pinto, edamame, etc...), 1 tablespoon peanut butter, or 1 ounce of fish, lean beef, pork or chicken.
Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

There are recommended serving sizes listed under each of the food group categories. The number of servings you can consume is based on your individual calorie requirement. By having a recommended serving size, this allows for all of us to be on the same “page” when we are looking at how many servings you can have from each food group. A serving of fruit is 1 cup of raw, cooked fruit or 100% fruit juice or ½ cup dried fruit. A serving of vegetables is 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables; 1 cup vegetable juice or 2 cups leafy greens. A serving of grains is equivalent to 1 slice of bread, ½ cup cooked grain (pasta, rice, cereal, etc.); or 1 ounce ready to eat cereal. A serving of dairy is 1 cup 1% or skim milk or 1.5 ounces natural cheese or 2 ounces processed cheese. Meat servings are calculated by ounce equivalents, therefore 1 ounce of lean beef, poultry, fish or pork; or 1 egg or 1 tablespoon peanut butter or ½ ounce nuts or ¼ cup beans. 

These are standard serving sizes:
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta
  • 6 crackers
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) of milk or yogurt
  • 1 to 2 ounces of cheese (an ounce is about the size of your thumb)
  • 3 ounces of cooked meat, poultry, or fish (about the size of a deck of cards)
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon butter or oil
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) of juice
  • 1 medium apple, orange, or other piece of fruit
  • 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables
  • 1/2 cup of other vegetables
Here are some serving size guidelines:
  • Meat, fish, poultry -- 3 oz. (about the size of the palm of your hand)
  • Cheese -- 1 oz. (about the size of your thumb)
  • Milk, yogurt, fresh vegetables -- 1 cup (about the size of a tennis ball)
  • Bread -- one slice
  • Rice or cooked pasta -- 1/3 cup
  • Potato or corn -- 1/2 cup
  • Dry cereal -- 3/4 cup
You may find that your serving sizes are much bigger. If so, it's time to make a change! Get started by using measuring cups and spoons to serve your food. After a while, you'll be able to "eyeball" the amount.

Continue Learning about Eating Habits and Nutrition

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.