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How Are Serving Sizes Determined?

Reference Amount Data – Currently in Use

Infants and Toddlers

Shown below is the data collected in the Reference Amount census from the 1970s and 80s for infants and toddlers:

Product categoryReference amountLabel statement5
Cereals, dry instant15 g_ cup (_ g)
Cereals, prepared, ready-to-serve110 g_ cup(s) (_ g)
Other cereal and grain products, dry ready-to-eat, e.g., ready-to-eat cereals, cookies, teething biscuits, and toasts7 g for infants and 20 g for toddlers for ready-to-eat cereals; 7 g for all others_ cup(s) (_ g) for ready-to-eat cereals; _ piece(s) (_ g) for others
Dinners, desserts, fruits, vegetables or soups, dry mix15 g_ tbsp(s) (_ g); _ cup(s) (_ g)
Dinners, desserts, fruits, vegetables or soups, ready-to-serve, junior type110 g_ cup(s) (_ g); _ cup(s) (_ mL)
Dinners, desserts, fruits, vegetables or soups, ready-to-serve, strained type60 g_ cup(s) (_ g); _ cup(s) (_ mL)
Dinners, stews or soups for toddlers, ready-to-serve170 g_ cup(s) (_ g); _ cup(s) (_ mL)
Fruits for toddlers, ready-to-serve125 g_ cup(s) (_ g)
Vegetables for toddlers, ready-to-serve70 g_ cup(s) (_ g)
Eggs/egg yolks, ready-to-serve55 g_ cup(s) (_ g)
Juices, all varieties120 mL4 fl oz (120 mL)

 

 

 

All Other Individuals

Shown below is the data collected in the Reference Amount census from the 1970s and 80s for Americans older than 4 years old:

Product categoryReference amountLabel statement5
Bakery products:
Biscuits, croissants, bagels, tortillas, soft bread sticks, soft pretzels, corn bread, hush puppies55 g_ piece(s) (_ g)
Breads (excluding sweet quick type), rolls50 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for sliced bread and distinct pieces (e.g., rolls); 2 oz (56 g/_ inch slice) for unsliced bread
Bread sticks—see crackers
Toaster pastries—see coffee cakes
Brownies40 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for distinct pieces; fractional slice (_ g) for bulk
Cakes, heavy weight (cheese cake; pineapple upside-down cake; fruit, nut, and vegetable cakes with more than or equal to 35 percent of the finished weight as fruit, nuts, or vegetables or any of these combined), must weigh 10g or more per cubic inch125 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for distinct pieces (e.g., sliced or individually packaged products); _ fractional slice (_ g) for large discrete units
Cakes, medium weight (chemically leavened cake with or without icing or filling except those classified as light weight cake; fruit, nut, and vegetable cake with less than 35 percent of the finished weight as fruit, nuts, or vegetables or any of these combined; light weight cake with icing; Boston cream pie; cupcake; eclair; cream puff), must weigh less than 10g but at least 4g per cubic inch80 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for distinct pieces (e.g., cupcake); _ fractional slice (_ g) for large discrete units
Cakes, light weight (angel food, chiffon, or sponge cake without icing or filling), must weigh less than 4g per cubic inch55 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for distinct pieces (e.g., sliced or individually packaged products); _ fractional slice (_ g) for large discrete units
Coffee cakes, crumb cakes, doughnuts, Danish, sweet rolls, sweet quick type breads, muffins, toaster pastries55 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for sliced bread and distinct pieces (e.g., doughnut); 2 oz (56 g/visual unit of measure) for bulk products (e.g., unsliced bread)
Cookies30 g_ piece(s) (_ g)
Crackers that are usually not used as snack, melba toast, hard bread sticks, ice cream cones15 g_ piece(s) (_ g)
Crackers that are usually used as snacks30 g_ piece(s) (_ g)
Croutons7 g_ tbsp(s) (_ g); _ cup(s) (_ g); _ piece(s) (_ g) for large pieces
French toast, pancakes, variety mixes110 g prepared for french toast and pancakes; 40 g dry mix for variety mixes_ piece(s) (_ g); _ cup(s) (_ g) for dry mix
Grain-based bars with or without filling or coating, e.g., breakfast bars, granola bars, rice cereal bars40 g_ piece(s) (_ g)
Ice cream cones—see crackers
Pies, cobblers, fruit crisps, turnovers, other pastries125 g_ piece(s) (_g) for distinct pieces; _ fractional slice (_ g) for large discrete units
Pie crust1/6 of 8 inch crust; 1/8 of 9 inch crust1/6 of 8 inch crust (_ g); 1/8 of 9 inch crust (_ g)
Pizza crust55 g_ fractional slice (_ g)
Taco shells, hard30 g_ shell(s) (_ g)
Waffles85 g_ piece(s) (_ g)
Beverages:
Carbonated and noncarbonated beverages, wine coolers, water240 mL8 fl oz (240 mL)
Coffee or tea, flavored and sweetened240 mL prepared8 fl oz (240 mL)
Cereal and Other Grain Products:
Breakfast cereals (hot cereal type), hominy grits1 cup prepared; 40 g plain dry cereal; 55 g flavored, sweetened dry cereal_ cup(s) (_ g)
Breakfast cereals, ready-to-eat, weighing less than 20 g per cup, e.g., plain puffed cereal grains15 g_ cup(s) (_ g)
Breakfast cereals, ready-to-eat weighing 20 g or more but less than 43 g per cup; high fiber cereals containing 28 g or more of fiber per 100 g30 g_ cup(s) (_ g)
Breakfast cereals, ready-to-eat, weighing 43 g or more per cup; biscuit types55 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for large distinct pieces (e.g., biscuit type);_ cup(s) (_ g) for all others
Bran or wheat germ15 g_ tbsp(s) (_ g); _ cup(s) (_ g)
Flours or cornmeal30 g_ tbsp(s) (_ g); _ cup(s) (_ g)
Grains, e.g., rice, barley, plain140 g prepared; 45 g dry_ cup(s) (_ g)
Pastas, plain140 g prepared; 55 g dry_ cup(s) (_ g); _ piece(s) (_ g) for large pieces (e.g., large shells or lasagna noodles) or 2 oz (56 g/visual unit of measure) for dry bulk products (e.g., spaghetti)
Pastas, dry, ready-to-eat, e.g., fried canned chow mein noodles25 g_ cup(s) (_ g)
Starches, e.g., cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca, etc.10 g_ tbsp (_ g)
Stuffing100 g_ cup(s) (_ g)
Dairy Products and Substitutes:
Cheese, cottage110 g_ cup (_ g)
Cheese used primarily as ingredients, e.g., dry cottage cheese, ricotta cheese55 g_ cup (_ g)
Cheese, grated hard, e.g., Parmesan, Romano5 g_ tbsp (_ g)
Cheese, all others except those listed as separate categories—includes cream cheese and cheese spread30 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for distinct pieces;_ tbsp(s) (_ g) for cream cheese and cheese spread; 1 oz (28 g/visual unit of measure) for bulk
Cheese sauce—see sauce category
Cream or cream substitutes, fluid15 mL1 tbsp (15 mL)
Cream or cream substitutes, powder2 g_ tsp (_ g)
Cream, half & half30 mL2 tbsp (30 mL)
Eggnog120 mL1/2 cup (120 mL); 4 fl oz (120 mL)
Milk, condensed, undiluted30 mL2 tbsp (30 mL)
Milk, evaporated, undiluted30 mL2 tbsp (30 mL)
Milk, milk-based drinks, e.g., instant breakfast, meal replacement, cocoa240 mL1 cup (240 mL); 8 fl oz (240 mL)
Shakes or shake substitutes, e.g., dairy shake mixes, fruit frost mixes240 mL1 cup (240 mL); 8 fl oz (240 mL)
Sour cream30 g_ tbsp (_ g)
Yogurt225 g_ cup (_ g)
Desserts:
Ice cream, ice milk, frozen yogurt, sherbet: all types, bulk and novelties (e.g., bars, sandwiches, cones)1/2 cup-includes the volume for coatings and wafers for the novelty type varieties_ piece(s) (_ g) for individually wrapped or packaged products; 1/2 cup (_ g) for others
Frozen flavored and sweetened ice and pops, frozen fruit juices: all types, bulk and novelties (e.g., bars, cups)85 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for individually wrapped or packaged products; _ cup(s) (_ g) for others
Sundae1 cup1 cup (_ g)
Custards, gelatin or pudding1/2 cup_ piece(s) (_ g) for distinct unit (e.g., individually packaged products); 1/2 cup (_ g) for bulk
Dessert Toppings and Fillings:
Cake frostings or icings35 g_ tbsp(s) (_ g)
Other dessert toppings, e.g., fruits, syrups, spreads, marshmallow cream, nuts, dairy and nondairy whipped toppings2 tbsp2 tbsp (_ g); 2 tbsp (30 mL)
Pie fillings85 g_ cup(s) (_ g)
Egg and Egg Substitutes:
Egg mixtures, e.g., egg foo young, scrambled eggs, omelets110 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for discrete pieces; _ cup(s) (_ g)
Eggs (all sizes)50 g1 large, medium, etc. (_ g)
Egg substitutesAn amount to make 1 large (50 g) egg_ cup(s) (_ g); _ cup(s) (_ mL)
Fats and Oils:
Butter, margarine, oil, shortening1 tbsp1 tbsp (_ g); 1 tbsp (15 mL)
Butter replacement, powder2 g_ tsp(s) (_ g)
Dressings for salads30 g_ tbsp (_ g); _ tbsp (_ mL)
Mayonnaise, sandwich spreads, mayonnaise-type dressings15 g_ tbsp (_ g)
Spray types0.25 gAbout _ seconds spray (_ g)
Fish, Shellfish, Game Meats, and Meat or Poultry Substitutes:
Bacon substitutes, canned anchovies,11anchovy pastes, caviar15 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for discrete pieces; _ tbsp(s) (_ g) for others
Dried, e.g., jerky30 g_ piece(s) (_ g)
Entrees with sauce, e.g., fish with cream sauce, shrimp with lobster sauce140 g cooked_ cup(s) (_ g); 5 oz (140 g/visual unit of measure) if not measurable by cup
Entrees without sauce, e.g., plain or fried fish and shellfish, fish and shellfish cake85 g cooked; 110 g uncooked12_ piece(s) (_ g) for discrete pieces; _ cup(s) (_ g); _ oz (_ g/visual unit of measure) if not measurable by cup13
Fish, shellfish or game meat, canned55 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for discrete pieces; _ cup(s) (_ g); 2 oz (56 g/_ cup) for products that are difficult to measure the g weight of cup measure (e.g., tuna); 2 oz (56 g/_ pieces) for products that naturally vary in size (e.g., sardines)
Substitute for luncheon meat, meat spreads, Canadian bacon, sausages and frankfurters55 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for distinct pieces (e.g., slices, links); _ cup(s) (_ g); 2 oz (56 g/visual unit of measure) for nondiscrete bulk product
Smoked or pickled fish, shellfish, or game meat; fish or shellfish spread55 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for distinct pieces (e.g., slices, links) or _ cup(s) (_ g); 2 oz (56 g/visual unit of measure) for nondiscrete bulk product
Substitutes for bacon bits—see miscellaneous category
Fruits and Fruit Juices:
Candied or pickled30 g_ piece(s) (_ g)
Dehydrated fruits—see snacks category
Dried40 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for large pieces (e.g., dates, figs, prunes); _ cup(s) (_ g) for small pieces (e.g., raisins)
Fruits for garnish or flavor, e.g., maraschino cherries114 g1 cherry (_ g)
Fruit relishes, e.g., cranberry sauce, cranberry relish70 g_ cup(s) (_ g)
Fruits used primarily as ingredients, avocado30 gSee footnote 13
Fruits used primarily as ingredients, others (cranberries, lemon, lime)55 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for large fruits; _ cup(s) (_ g) for small fruits measurable by cup13
Watermelon280 gSee footnote 13
All other fruits (except those listed as separate categories), fresh, canned, or frozen140 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for large pieces (e.g., strawberries, prunes, apricots, etc.); _ cup(s) (_ g) for small pieces (e.g., blueberries, raspberries, etc.)13
Juices, nectars, fruit drinks240 mL8 fl oz (240 mL)
Juices used as ingredients, e.g., lemon juice, lime juice5 mL1 tsp (5 mL)
Legumes:
Bean cake (tofu), tempeh85 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for discrete pieces; 3 oz (84 g/visual unit of measure) for bulk products
Beans, plain or in sauce130 g for beans in sauce or canned in liquid and refried beans prepared; 90 g for others prepared; 35 g dry_ cup (_ g)
Miscellaneous Category:
Baking powder, baking soda, pectin0.6 g_ tsp (_ g)
Baking decorations, e.g., colored sugars and sprinkles for cookies, cake decorations1 tsp or 4 g if not measurable by teaspoon_ piece(s) (_ g) for discrete pieces; 1 tsp (_ g)
Batter mixes, bread crumbs30 g_ tbsp(s) (_ g);_ cup(s) (_ g)
Cooking wine30 mL2 tbsp (30 mL)
Dietary supplementsThe maximum amount recommended, as appropriate, on the label for consumption per eating occasion, or, in the absence of recommendations, 1 unit, e.g., tablet, capsule, packet, teaspoonsful, etc._ tablet(s), _ capsule(s), _ packet(s), _ tsp(s) (_ g), etc.
Drink mixers (without alcohol)Amount to make 240 mL drink (without ice)_ fl oz (_ mL)
Chewing gum3 g_ piece(s) (_ g)
Meat, poultry and fish coating mixes, dry; seasoning mixes, dry, e.g., chili seasoning mixes, pasta salad seasoning mixesAmount to make one reference amount of final dish_ tsp(s) (_ g); _ tbsp(s) (_ g)
Salad and potato toppers, e.g., salad crunchies, salad crispins, substitutes for bacon bits7 g_ tbsp(s) (_ g)
Salt, salt substitutes, seasoning salts (e.g., garlic salt)1/4 tsp1/4 tsp (_g); _piece(s) (_g) for discrete pieces (e.g., individually packaged products)
Spices, herbs (other than dietary supplements)1/4 tsp or 0.5 g if not measurable by teaspoon1/4 tsp (_ g); _ piece(s) (_ g) if not measurable by teaspoons (e.g., bay leaf)
Mixed Dishes:
Measurable with cup, e.g., casseroles, hash, macaroni and cheese, pot pies, spaghetti with sauce, stews, etc.1 cup1 cup (_ g)
Not measurable with cup, e.g., burritos, egg rolls, enchiladas, pizza, pizza rolls, quiche, all types of sandwiches140 g, add 55 g for products with gravy or sauce topping, e.g., enchilada with cheese sauce, crepe with white sauce14_ piece(s) (_ g) for discrete pieces; _ fractional slice (_ g) for large discrete units
Nuts and Seeds:
Nuts, seeds, and mixtures, all types: sliced, chopped, slivered, and whole30 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for large pieces (e.g., unshelled nuts);_ tbsp(s) (_ g) ;_ cup(s) (_ g) for small pieces (e.g., peanuts, sunflower seeds)
Nut and seed butters, pastes, or creams2 tbsp2 tbsp (_ g)
Coconut, nut and seed flours15 g_ tbsp(s) (_ g); _ cup (_ g)
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes/Yams:
French fries, hash browns, skins, or pancakes70 g prepared; 85 g for frozen unprepared french fries_ piece(s) (_ g) for large distinct pieces (e.g., patties, skins); 2.5 oz (70 g/_ pieces) for prepared fries; 3 oz (84 g/_ pieces) for unprepared fries
Mashed, candied, stuffed, or with sauce140 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for discrete pieces (e.g., stuffed potato); _ cup(s) (_ g)
Plain, fresh, canned, or frozen110 g for fresh or frozen; 125 g for vacuum packed; 160 g for canned in liquid_ piece(s) (_ g) for discrete pieces;_ cup(s) (_ g) for sliced or chopped products
Salads:
Gelatin salad120 g_ cup (_ g)
Pasta or potato salad140 g_ cup(s) (_ g)
All other salads, e.g., egg, fish, shellfish, bean, fruit, or vegetable salads100 g_ cup(s) (_ g)
Sauces, Dips, Gravies and Condiments:
Barbecue sauce, hollandaise sauce, tartar sauce, other sauces for dipping (e.g., mustard sauce, sweet and sour sauce), all dips (e.g., bean dips, dairy-based dips, salsa)2 tbsp2 tbsp (_ g); 2 tbsp (30 mL)
Major main entree sauces, e.g., spaghetti sauce125 g_ cup (_ g); _ cup (_ mL)
Minor main entree sauces (e.g., pizza sauce, pesto sauce), other sauces used as toppings (e.g., gravy, white sauce, cheese sauce), cocktail sauce1/4 cup1/4 cup (_ g); 1/4 cup (60 mL)
Major condiments, e.g., catsup, steak sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, teriyaki sauce, marinades1 tbsp1 tbsp (_ g); 1 tbsp (15 mL)
Minor condiments, e.g., horseradish, hot sauces, mustards, worcestershire sauce1 tsp1 tsp (_ g); 1 tsp (5 mL)
Snacks:
All varieties, chips, pretzels, popcorns, extruded snacks, fruit-based snacks (e.g., fruit chips,) grain-based snack mixes30 g_ cup(s) (_ g) for small pieces (e.g., popcorn) _ piece(s) (_ g) for large pieces (e.g., large pretzels; pressed dried fruit sheet); 1 oz (28 g/visual unit of measure) for bulk products (e.g., potato chips)
Soups:
All varieties245 g_ cup (_ g); _ cup (_ mL)
Sugars and Sweets:
Baking candies (e.g., chips)15 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for large pieces; _ tbsp(s) (_ g) for small pieces; 1/2 oz (14 g/visual unit of measure) for bulk products
Hard candies, breath mints2 g_ piece(s) (_ g)
Hard candies, roll-type, mini-size in dispenser packages5 g_ piece(s) (_ g)
Hard candies, others15 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for large pieces;_ tbsp(s) (_ g) for “mini-size” candies measurable by tablespoon; 1/2 oz (14 g/visual unit of measure) for bulk products
All other candies40 g_ piece(s) (_ g); 11/2 oz (42 g/visual unit of measure) for bulk products
Confectioner’s sugar30 g_ cup (_ g)
Honey, jams, jellies, fruit butter, molasses1 tbsp1 tbsp (_ g); 1 tbsp (15 mL)
Marshmallows30 g_ cup(s) (_ g) for small pieces; _ piece(s) (_ g) for large pieces
Sugar4 g_ tsp (_ g) ; _ piece(s) (_ g) for discrete pieces (e.g., sugar cubes, individually packaged products)
Sugar substitutesAn amount equivalent to one reference amount for sugar in sweetness_ tsp(s) (_ g) for solids; _ drop(s) (_ g) for liquid; _ piece(s) (_ g) (e.g., individually packaged products)
Syrups30 mL for syrups used primarily as an ingredient (e.g., light or dark corn syrup); 60 mL for all others2 tbsp (30 mL) for syrups used primarily as an ingredient; 1/4 cup (60 mL) for all others
Vegetables:
Vegetables primarily used for garnish or flavor, e.g., pimento, parsley4 g_ piece(s) (_ g); _ tbsp(s) (_ g) for chopped products
Chili pepper, green onion30 g_ piece(s) (_ g)13; _ tbsp(s) (_ g); _ cup(s) (_ g) for sliced or chopped products
All other vegetables without sauce: fresh, canned, or frozen85 g for fresh or frozen; 95 g for vacuum packed; 130 g for canned in liquid, cream-style corn, canned or stewed tomatoes, pumpkin, or winter squash_ piece(s) (_ g) for large pieces (e.g., brussel sprouts); _ cup(s) (_ g) for small pieces (e.g., cut corn, green peas); 3 oz (84 g/visual unit of measure) if not measurable by cup13
All other vegetables with sauce: fresh, canned, or frozen110 g_ piece(s) (_ g) for large pieces (e.g., brussel sprouts); _ cup(s) (_ g) for small pieces (e.g., cut corn, green peas); 4 oz (112 g/visual unit of measure) if not measurable by cup
Vegetable juice240 mL8 fl oz (240 mL)
Olives15 g_ piece(s) (_ g); _ tbsp(s) (_ g) for sliced products
Pickles, all types30 g1 oz (28 g/visual unit of measure)
Pickle relishes15 g_ tbsp (_ g)
Vegetable pastes, e.g., tomato paste30 g_ tbsp (_ g)
Vegetable sauces or purees, e.g, tomato sauce, tomato puree60 g_ cup (_ g); _ cup (_ mL)

 

Note:

  • The Reference Amount for dough, frozen pasta, raw meat, etc. is the amount required to make the RA of the cooked / prepared food.
  • Pizza sauce is not considered to be a topping, it is part of what makes it a pizza.
  • For foods that are packed in water or another liquid that is normally drained, the RA is for the product after the container has been drained.
  • The RA for ice cream cones and eggs, no matter the size, is always one unit.
    • People tend to eat the entire egg / cone, no matter the weight.
  • The RA for chewing gum that weighs more than the reference amount is still one unit.
    • People tend to eat the entire stick of gum no matter the weight.

Source(s):

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21, Chapter I, Subchapter B, Part 101, February, 2016. http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=0811a061720528cac7d88e839b14cb5c&pitd=20160216&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title21/21cfr101_main_02.tpl. Accessed September 11, 2016.