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How Much is a 

“Serving Size” Anyway?

How Much is a “Serving Size” Anyway?

Here’s a handy way to measure a serving anywhere, anytime.

We know that counting carbohydrates (carbs) is important for many people with diabetes. But when people talk about carbsCarbohydrateCarbohydrates are the main kinds of food that raise blood sugar levels. Your digestive system changes carbohydrates into glucose (sugar), and then uses this sugar as a source of energy for your cells.

There are 3 main types of carbohydrates in food: starches (complex carbohydrates), sugars (simple carbohydrates), and fiber. Fiber is the part of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts, that you can’t digest.
, they often talk about how many are in “a serving.” But what does a serving really mean?

Serving sizes can be described in different ways, depending on where you are and the type of food being measured. Depending on your eating habits at home, serving sizes may be smaller than what you are used to eating at a restaurant.

Where do you start?

When you’re eating food from a package, the Nutrition Facts label is a fast way to learn about serving size. But when you’re cooking with whole foods or eating out, it can be harder.

Estimating serving size

When you cook, you should measure your food with a food scale or with measuring cups and spoons. You can ask your diabetes care teamDiabetes care teamYour diabetes care team may include: a primary care doctor, a diabetes and hormone doctor (endocrinologist), a registered nurse, a diabetes educator, a dietician, a heart doctor (cardiologist), a foot doctor (podiatrist), an eye doctor (ophthalmologist/optometrist), a kidney doctor (nephrologist), a dentist, a pharmacist, and a mental health professional. for how to measure the food in your meal plan.

Keep in mind that some recommended meal options include 30 to 60 grams of carbs. Here are some examples of foods with 15 grams of carbohydrates in 1 serving:

  • 1/2 cup of cooked cereal
  • 1/3 cup of rice or pasta
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 small piece of fruit
  • 1/2 cup of black beans or starchy vegetables
  • 3/4 cup of plain yogurt

Watch out for hidden sugar!

It may not always be clear how much sugar and other carbs are in foods. So, here are a few tips to help you find out what’s in your food:

  • Many words that end in “-ose,” such as sucrose, fructose, and dextrose are types of sugars
  • Some “low-fat” foods have extra sugar. Look at the food label closely

So, what do you do when you're not at home?

Just remember these familiar guides.

Your thumb tip is about 1 teaspoon.

Though thumbs vary in size, you can use yours to estimate foods like margarine or butter. Since a teaspoon is about the size of 1 thumb tip, a tablespoon would be about 3 thumb tips.

deck cards

A deck of cards is about 3 ounces.

That’s a good size to think about when you’re dealing with how much meat or fish to eat.

A woman’s fist is about 8 ounces or 1 cup.

A cup of mashed potatoes? Use your hands!

tennis ball

A “medium-sized” piece of fruit is about the size of a tennis ball.

Remember that when you’re serving.


An ounce of cheese is about the size of 4 stacked dice.

Why gamble when you can measure?

For more information on measuring serving sizes and what sizes are right for you, speak with your doctor or a member of your diabetes care team.

Take a Quick Quiz

Around how big is a healthy-sized portion of meat?


Sorry, that's incorrect.

A deck of cards equals around 3 ounces of meat, which is a healthy-sized portion.

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