What does serving size mean?

Nick Gillitt
Nutrition & Dietetics
A rose by any other name smells just as sweet -- but a “serving size” may be larger than a single “serving” of fruit or vegetable. Confused? Fortunately the difference is not as complicated as it sounds, and in fact, may make it easier to get your 9 to 13 daily recommended servings of produce, depending on your calorie intake and activity level.

You see, the serving size often printed on nutrition labels refers to the FDA ’s recommended amount of a particular food you would normally eat in one sitting. For example, one serving size of bananas is, you guessed it, one banana. While the serving size may vary depending on the food in question, a serving of fruit or vegetable is typically a half cup and refers to your recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables. To return to the example, since a large banana may contain a full cup (i.e., two half cups) of fruit, then one serving size (one banana) provides not one but nearly two servings of fruits and vegetables. Like a banana, a single large apple is a serving size, but it accounts for about four servings of fruit! And this is also true with fruit juice -- 8 ounces is a serving size, giving you two servings of fruit.

The same half-cup serving measurement holds true for vegetables. Thus, if you sit down to eat a serving size of broccoli (a cup and a half), you’ll have consumed three of your daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.
Beakers and Fruit
Lynn Grieger
Nutrition & Dietetics
The serving size listed on a food label is a standardized amount to help you compare the nutrition content of various foods. This serving size doesn't mean it's the amount you should necessarily consume; that will depend on your hunger, activity level, health needs, and personal preferences. It's a good starting point, though, especially because we're used to eating large amounts of food, and understanding a serving size can help us eat more appropriate amounts of food especially if we're trying to lose weight.

The new food icon described at has extensive information on suggested serving sizes, or amounts to eat, of various foods. This new method uses a dinner plate to help us eat a balanced meal that contains grains, fruit, vegetables and protein.
The serving size part of the food label tells you exactly how much of the product equals one serving size. This sets the stage for the rest of the label. All the information found below applies to the serving size shown.

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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.