What Is a Fruit Serving Size?

T. Alaine

The term “serving size” refers to the amount of one portion of a food item that is suitable for consumption, and a fruit serving size refers specifically to portions of fruit. Serving sizes act as guidelines for monitoring how much of different types of foods are ingested, and for comparing actual consumed amounts to recommended daily intakes suggested by health officials. Fruit serving size varies widely and depends on whether the fruit is whole, dried, or prepared as juice. Typically, fruit serving sizes are measure in volume or size, and sometimes by weight.

Various types of fruit in a grocery store.
Various types of fruit in a grocery store.

A fruit serving size refers to the amount of fruit suggested to be eaten in one sitting. To clarify, this does not necessarily mean that it is unacceptable to consume more than one serving of fruit at once. Most fruits are low in calories but high in essential nutrients, so fruit serving sizes should not be viewed as restrictions, but instead as guidelines that help individuals monitor how much fruit is consumed over time. Since most health authorities profess the benefits of eating diets rich in fruits and vegetables, fruit serving sizes generally help people make sure they are eating enough fruit, as opposed to helping people make sure they are not eating too much.

An apple.
An apple.

Determining fruit serving size depends on the state of the fruit itself. Fresh fruits such as whole apples, oranges, berries, and many others will have larger serving sizes than their dried or juiced counterparts. Whole fruits have higher water contents, so the nutrients and calories are less concentrated and larger servings, whether measuring by volume or weight, are acceptable. Dried fruits, which logically have much lower water contents than fresh fruits, will have smaller serving sizes. These smaller serving sizes reflect the fact that less dried fruit is needed to obtain the same amounts of calories and nutrients because these elements have been concentrated. Fruit juice serving sizes follow the same principle.

A tennis ball is roughly the same size as a half cup of apple or orange.
A tennis ball is roughly the same size as a half cup of apple or orange.

Generally speaking, a fruit serving size is considered to be either a ½ cup (118 ml) of fresh fruit, or a medium sized whole fruit; a ¼ cup (59 ml) of dried fruit; or 6 ounces (170 g) of 100% pure fruit juice. Dried fruit and fruit juice serving sizes are fairly straightforward and simple to understand. The great variety of fruits available, however, means that sometimes figuring out serving sizes for different types can be complicated. For example, the term “medium” is ambiguous and highly subjective. Fortunately, there are some ways to make figuring out fruit serving size easier.

Most fruits are low in calories but high in essential nutrients.
Most fruits are low in calories but high in essential nutrients.

A medium apple or orange that would equal about a ½ cup (118 ml) when chopped should resemble the size of a tennis ball, and 1 cup (237 ml) of whole fruit should be about the size a baseball. If selecting whole fruit that fits the medium description is too difficult, it is always safe to cut up fresh fruit and measure out a ½ cup (118 ml) serving. Small fruits such as berries are also easy to measure into appropriate servings because of their size.

A person should eat a diet that's rich in fruits and vegetables.
A person should eat a diet that's rich in fruits and vegetables.
Measuring cups are useful for detemining a serving size of fruit.
Measuring cups are useful for detemining a serving size of fruit.
Six ounces of pure fruit juice counts as one serving of fruit.
Six ounces of pure fruit juice counts as one serving of fruit.
A medium apple or orange is about the size of a tennis ball.
A medium apple or orange is about the size of a tennis ball.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is healthy.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is healthy.
Serving sizes of fresh fruit are larger than servings of dried fruit.
Serving sizes of fresh fruit are larger than servings of dried fruit.

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