Question of the Week

August 4, 2003


"What do a tennis ball, hockey puck and deck of playing cards have in common? This unusual combination represents the equivalent serving sizes of some important food groups in your daily diet. A portion of fruits or vegetables the size of a tennis ball is the equivalent of one serving, or about 20 percent of the "five a day" recommended servings. Half a bagel the size of a hockey puck represents one serving from the grain food group. Three ounces of protein is about the size of a deck of playing cards, according to Sandra Bastin, Extension food and nutrition specialist at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture."

While those guidelines make it easier to compare a person's food consumption with the food guide pyramid, how do they compare with the "serving size" that is listed on packaged foods?

"Consumers are interested in knowing how much and what type of foods to eat for continued or improved health. Two federal nutrition education tools use standard serving sizes: the Food Guide Pyramid and the Nutrition Facts label. The Pyramid was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1992. The Nutrition Facts label, which is under the regulation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has been required on virtually all food labels since August 1994. While both tools contain serving sizes that are standard•thus enabling nutritional and caloric comparisons of similar foods•serving sizes for a particular food are not necessarily the same between the Pyramid and the Nutrition Facts label. Attempts to directly compare Pyramid and label servings may, therefore, generate confusion...."

"At the top of each food label you'll see a serving size amount. The serving size is the amount of the food you would need to eat to get the amount of listed nutrients. These quantities are based on the amount people generally eat according to standards set by the FDA. Serving sizes are not necessarily recommended amounts, but common ones. All of the nutritional information on the package is based on one listed serving size. Remember that the package may contain several servings. For example, if you eat a whole bag of chips that contains three servings, you have eaten three times the amount of calories and other nutrients listed on the package for one serving."

For example, while the Food Guide Pyramid lists "[h]alf a bagel the size of a hockey puck" as one serving size, many bagel packages and nutrition websites list nutritional information per bagel. "Cinnamon Raisin Bagel/ 1 bagel/ 311 [calories]"

And when was the last time you had pizza? A single slice of Pizza Hut* pizza contains over 600 calories (over 700 if it's Meat Lover's®). How often do people generally stop after one slice of pizza? Does is take two slices to make a meal? Maybe three or more? Just two slices of Meat Lover's® pizza will bring fat totals to 62 grams (96% of the recommended daily total). While three slices of plain cheese pizza bring in less fat at 69 grams, they bring in 1,920 calories (what some people should eat in an entire day).

Meat Lover's®
Calories From Fat
Total Fat
(Note 18 Aug. 2006: For current info, please see:

Questions of the Week:
When was the last time you checked the serving size on your favorite snack food? How many servings do you usually consume in one sitting? Do the math. What does it mean? How can an awareness of serving size help you to continue to enjoy the food you like with balance and moderation?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

Request Question of the Week by email 
QoW Archives: 9/2002 - 8/2003 9/2003 - 8/2004 9/2004 - 8/2005 9/2005 - 8/2006 9/2006 - present

Custom Search on the AE Site