Health & Body-Boosting

A Handy Guide to Portion Control

Fri Feb 25

Little by little, we are eating more and more.

Since the late 1970s, portion sizes have increased so much that today’s serving sizes can be more than triple what the USDA recommends. 

Today over 65% of Americans are classified as overweight or obese. It’s no coincidence this number has increased as portion sizes continue to grow and the foods we are consuming contain more kilojoules than ever.

Although we generally know to eat healthy, most of us don’t know what a portion or serving looks like and so portion sizes end up way bigger than they need to be, especially if we are hungry, the amount of food we pile on our plates is often more than we realize.

There’s also that common thought that portion control doesn’t matter if you’re eating healthy food, which simply isn’t true. A healthy balanced diet isn’t only about what you eat –it’s also about how much you eat, so paying attention to your portion sizes is a key factor in maintaining a balanced diet and preventing weight gain.

Knowing how much food we should be eating can help us make better healthier choices throughout the day. Weighing and measuring food is one way to help, but exact measuring every day is a bit unrealistic. Instead having strong visual aids for healthy portion sizes makes life easier.

Using our hands as a guide is an easy way to size up portions on your plate as our hands provide a good measure relative to our gender and size. Keep in mind though, that this is a rough guide, as people have different dietary needs. For example, age, gender, and physical activity levels will all affect a person’s daily energy requirements.

To help improve your portion control, here is a general guide:

  • Fruits and vegetables: two hands cupped together for non-starchy vegetables like carrots, broccoli, or cauliflower. Tip: try to include as much variety as possible, using different colors as a guide. Each color provides a different range of nutrients. 
  • Grain foods and starchy vegetables or legumes: a closed fist is a good guide for a portion of foods like potato, corn, rice, pasta, and bread.
  • Legumes: a closed fist is a good guide for a portion of legumes including beans, chickpeas, and lentils.
  • Meat and poultry: the palm of your hand is a guide for a portion of red meat, chicken, or pork. Tip: the thickness of the meat should be about the same thickness as the palm of your hand.
  • Fish: The whole of your hand is a good guide for a portion of fish.
  • High-fat foods: one thumb-sized portion for butter, oils, and nuts. Two thumb-sized portions for cheese.

Eventually, serving these portions will become second nature. You might even be surprised by how satisfied you are with these amounts.