How much salad is a serving?

Salad is a nutritious part of a balanced diet. It provides vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals that are beneficial for health. However, it’s important to pay attention to portion sizes when eating salad to avoid consuming too many calories. So how much salad is considered one serving? Here is a quick answer:

Quick Answer: The recommended serving size for salad is about 2 cups or 2 handfuls of greens. This equals around 85-100 grams or 3-4 ounces of salad greens.

To get a better understanding of appropriate salad serving sizes, let’s take a deeper look at recommendations by health organizations and experts.

Serving Size Recommendations

USDA Recommendations

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides recommendations for food serving sizes in their dietary guidelines.

For salad, the USDA defines one serving as:

– 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach or kale
– 1/2 cup of other vegetables like tomatoes, carrots or peppers

So for a mixed salad containing leafy greens and other chopped vegetables, a single serving would be around 1 to 1 1/2 cups.

ACA Recommendations

The American Cancer Association (ACA) also provides guidance on salad serving sizes.

They recommend consuming 2 to 2 1/2 cups of vegetables with meals. A side salad can count as 1 to 2 cups of veggies.

So according to the ACA, an ideal salad serving is between 1 and 2 1/2 cups of mixed greens, vegetables and other salad ingredients. This equals a serving size of around 85 to 170 grams.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends adults eat 2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. An easy way to meet this goal is to include salads at meals.

Their guidelines suggest a standard serving of salad includes:

– 2 cups of leafy greens like lettuce or baby spinach
– 1/2 cup of raw vegetables like tomatoes or shredded carrots
– 3/4 cup of vegetable juice like tomato or V8 juice

So a typical salad serving contains about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of raw vegetables, according to AND recommendations.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The CDC also provides suggestions for salad serving sizes as part of their healthy eating guidelines.

They recommend adults eat 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily. An easy way to meet these veggie goals is to have a salad with meals.

Based on their guidelines, the CDC considers a standard salad serving to be around 2 cups of leafy greens and mixed vegetables.

Serving Size Guidelines Summary:

To summarize the major health organization recommendations:

  • USDA: 1 cup leafy greens, 1/2 cup other veggies
  • ACA: 1 to 2 1/2 cups greens and vegetables
  • AND: 2 cups leafy greens, 1/2 cup other vegetables
  • CDC: 2 cups mixed greens and vegetables

So the consensus for salad serving size falls between 1 to 2 1/2 cups of leafy greens and assorted vegetables. This equals around 85 to 170 grams or 3 to 6 ounces.

Visual Size Comparisons

Estimating salad serving sizes by cups or grams isn’t very intuitive for most people. Here are some visual comparisons that can make it easier to understand appropriate amounts:

Tennis Ball

A serving of leafy salad greens is roughly the size of a tennis ball. So fill a bowl with about 2 to 3 loosely packed tennis balls worth of spinach, kale or other greens for one salad serving.


Mixed salads with leafy greens and chopped veggies is approximately the size of a baseball. Scoop 1 to 2 baseballs full of mixed greens, tomatoes, carrots etc. for a standard serving.

Computer Mouse

Your cupped hand holding a computer mouse represents about 1 cup or a single serving of leafy greens. For a full salad serving, fill a bowl with 2 to 2 1/2 loosely packed hands (mouse volumes) of salad.

Deck of Cards

Chopped vegetables like tomatoes, bell peppers and carrots in a salad are about the size of a deck of cards. A 1/2 cup vegetables serving is comparable to 1/2 a deck of cards.

Serving Sizes by Leafy Greens

The recommended amount varies slightly depending on the type of leafy greens in your salad:


– 1 cup of iceberg or romaine lettuce is one serving
– 2 cups of loose leaf or mesclun lettuce mix is one serving


– 2 loosely packed cups of raw spinach leaves is one serving
– 1 cup of cooked spinach is one serving


– 1 cup of raw chopped kale is one serving
– 1/2 cup cooked kale is one serving


– 2 cups loosely packed arugula greens is a single serving

Mixed Greens

– 2 to 3 cups of mixed salad greens like spring mix is one serving

So for leafy salads, aim for about 2 loosely packed cups or 2 handfuls to make a standard serving size.

Serving Sizes for Full Salads

When making a full salad with leafy greens, chopped veggies, and other toppings like cheese and croutons, here are some typical serving sizes:

Side Salad

– 2 cups leafy greens (about 2 handfuls)
– 1/2 cup chopped veggies (ex. 12 baby carrots)
– 2 Tbsp dressing (ex. 2-3 walnuts)
– 1 Tbsp nuts/seeds
– 1 Tbsp shredded cheese

Main Dish Salad

– 3-4 cups leafy greens (about 3 large handfuls)
– 1 cup chopped veggies (ex. 24 baby carrots)
– 3-4 Tbsp dressing (ex. 9-12 walnuts)
– 2 Tbsp nuts/seeds/shredded cheese
– 1/4 cup croutons
– 3 oz sliced grilled chicken or salmon

So a side salad serving contains about 2 cups of greens and 1/2 cup vegetables with small amounts of extras like dressing and cheese.

A main dish salad has 3-4 cups greens and 1 cup vegetables along with larger portions of protein, dressing and other toppings.

Tips for Portioning Salad

Here are some useful tips for portioning out the right salad serving size for your needs:

  • Use measuring cups for an accurate 1 cup greens and 1/2 cup veggies serving.
  • Start with 2 handfuls of leafy greens as the base of your salad.
  • Add veggies to equal about 1 handful or 1/2 cup.
  • Use the palm of your hand to estimate a 2 Tbsp dressing serving.
  • Sprinkle on extras like nuts, cheese and croutons sparingly.
  • Portion salads into individual containers instead of serving family-style.
  • Fill larger bowls or plates with salad for main dish servings.
  • Use smaller bowls for side salad servings.

Controlling portions is easier when you use visual cues and measurements to build salads.

Serving Size for Common Salad Ingredients

To make it easier to compose salads with proper serving sizes, here are some visual equivalents for common ingredients:


  • 1 cup leafy greens = 1 tennis ball
  • 2 cups = 2 tennis balls
  • 3 cups = 3 tennis balls


  • 1/2 cup chopped veggies = deck of cards
  • 1 cup = 2 decks of cards


  • 2 Tbsp = golf ball
  • 1/4 cup = ping pong ball

Nuts & Seeds

  • 1 Tbsp nuts or seeds = 1 golf ball
  • 2 Tbsp = ping pong ball


  • 1 Tbsp grated cheese = 1 golf ball
  • 2 Tbsp = ping pong ball

Using these visual cues makes it easier to add salad ingredients in appropriate serving sizes.

Measuring Portions Accurately

For the most accuracy, use measuring spoons and cups to portion ingredients:


  • 1 cup leafy greens
  • 1/2 cup chopped vegetables
  • 1/4 cup dressing or croutons


  • 2 Tbsp nuts or seeds
  • 2 Tbsp dressing
  • 1-2 Tbsp cheese

Getting in the habit of using exact measurements helps you better control portions.

What About Calories?

The calorie content of salads can vary greatly based on the specific ingredients used.

As a general guideline:

  • A side salad of 2 cups greens, 1/2 cup veggies and 2 Tbsp dressing contains about 50-75 calories.
  • A main dish salad with 4 cups greens, 1 cup veggies, 3 oz protein and 4 Tbsp dressing has 250-400 calories.

The key is sticking to proper serving sizes for each component based on whether the salad is a side dish or main entree.

Serving Size Considerations

Here are a few other factors to consider regarding salad serving sizes:

Nutrition Needs

If you are hungry or have higher calorie needs, opt for larger 3-4 cup main dish salad servings. If you are watching calories, stick to 1-2 cup side salads.

Add Ins

The calories in salads quickly add up when you top them with extras like avocado, bacon bits, nuts, croutons and creamy dressings. Limit high calorie add-ins to keep portions in check.

Prepared Salads

Restaurant or pre-made salads often provide 2-4 side salad servings in one large bowl. Try splitting one big salad into multiple portions.


Focus your salad around lower calorie greens and veggies. Limit high calorie ingredients like cheese, eggs, pasta salad, quinoa or fatty meats. Or use smaller amounts as garnishes instead of main ingredients.


Only make as much salad as you can eat in 1-2 days. Ingredients like greens get soggy and dressings separate when stored too long. Repurpose leftover veggies or protein into other meals.


To wrap up, an appropriate single serving of salad includes about 2 cups or 2 large handfuls of leafy greens and 1/2 to 1 cup of vegetables. This equals around 85 to 170 grams or 3 to 6 ounces.

Visualize a salad serving as about the size of a tennis ball or a baseball. Measuring cups can also be used for accuracy.

Pay attention to portions of high calorie extras beyond the greens and vegetables. And adjust your servings up or down based on your nutrition needs and hunger levels.

Keeping an eye on salad quantities can help you meet veggie goals while controlling calories. So take time to learn proper serving sizes and use visual guides or measuring cups to build salad portions. This will help you enjoy salad as part of healthy eating pattern.

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