Top | The Vegetable Challenge

What's a serving size?

(post, Kim Carlson)

One commenter asked a question a while back that I could relate to: "Any suggestions on measuring 'servings' without having to put everything I eat into a measuring cup?"

I've seen all kinds of advice on this subject, from "a handful" (of broken cauliflowerettes or sliced zucchini) to a "medium-sized" fill-in-the-blank (carrot, lemon cucumber, russet potato, avocado, etc.), to a "soup-bowl full" (for salad greens). 

[%image reference-image float=left width=400 caption="Just how many servings of vegetables are in this salade niçoise?"] 

The BBC published a set of guidelines for serving size. And the USDA has a good visual guide — click on the blue bar labeled "View Vegetables Food Gallery" — although it's limited in scope. 

What surprises me in these guidelines is how small the portions seem to be, at least for such things as corn and broccoli and (on the BBC) "mushy peas." Did you know that just two slices of red onion qualifies as a serving? However, a few items seem rather hard to fathom. An entire sweet potato, for example, is daunting; half seems like a generous portion to me.

And the serving question is complicated by things like Roasted Vegetable Lasagna, a delicious portion of which I had the other day for lunch. How many veggies are there in that? Given the fact that the whole thing could fill a cup — noodles and all — I'm guessing the vegetable portion was about half a cup, or one serving. But what variety! Snow peas, zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, and of course tomatoes. Maybe, based on sheer scope, that should count as two servings?

Too bad we can't wear a vegetable pedometer that could gauge for us whether we're eating our daily fill. Instead, we have to rely on our estimating abilities — and our appetites. 

Both of which — for me anyway — are less than perfect.

reference-image, l