By Sharon Irish
What is the correct portion size?
Well that depends on your age, weight, activity level and goals. Read this post to find out why.
How do you ensure that you are eating the correct portion size for you?
Should you trust the serving size on food packaging?
What if you eat out at a restaurant? How can you make sure you don’t overeat?
Don’t worry, I am here to help!
This post is all about how to understand portion sizes so that you can stay on track with your weight loss goals or fitness goals.
What you need to remember is that whether you want to lose weight, tone up or become a fitness model, the same rules apply.
In order for you to reach your goals you need to focus on:
This may surprise you, but it is true. You can’t out train a bad diet – fact.
To lose weight and stay in shape, no matter what your fitness levels, your diet must come first or you are just wasting your time.
You need to fuel your body enough so that you can carry out your daily tasks without overeating and allowing your body to store the extra food as fat.
You may have worked out that you need a certain amount of calories per day, and you may have factored in your exercise routine. So why are you still not reaching your goals?
It may come down to portion size. If you are eating the correct amount of calories per day, you could still be storing food as fat because you are overeating during one or more of your meals.
Yes, your calculations may very well be correct, and you are hitting those numbers but if you are not spacing out your meals correctly then you could still be putting on weight!
In one of my other posts I described your body as a car and explained that when you put fuel into it, you can only fill it up to the top of the tank. If you carry on adding fuel, where is it going to go?
Unfortunately, your body is not like a fuel tank and the excess will not spill on to the floor – it will be stored as fat in your body instead and that is where portion sizes come in.
Did you know that your body only tells you that you are full ten minutes after finishing a meal?
This means that if you are eating a large meal and feel full before your plate is empty, you could have been overeating for those ten minutes – you may have even eaten double the amount your body needs and so you will be storing that extra as fat.
Unfortunately, many people think that eating very small portions is a good way to lose weight. The problem with this method is that:
If your portion size is too small, your body will think it is starving and will hold onto all the fat it can in order to ensure your body can still function. Your metabolism will slow down and you will not burn any fat.
In order to keep your metabolism going using the small portions method, you would need to increase the number of meals you have during the day.
This is possible and a lot of people have success this way but I’m here to be honest with you, and my opinion is that it is difficult.
You need to prepare significantly more meals and be strict about eating them at the correct time, which I feel is putting more pressure on yourself when you really don’t need it. By all means, try this once you have established a healthy eating routine and you want to try it out, but don’t overcomplicate things when you really don’t need to.
I have found that keeping it simple leads to a better success rate and helps to make changes for the long-term.
If you space out your food throughout the day and eat the correct portion sizes, then rather than storing food as fat, your body will become a fat burning machine and you will even be burning fat while you sleep!
Each country has their own advice on how many portions of each food type are recommended, but generally, they are similar. I live in the UK and so I will base my advice on those recommendations.
Ideally, for a healthy diet you should be aiming for the following daily portions:
2 portions of fruit
5 portions of vegetables
5 portions of carbohydrates
3 portions of calcium-rich dairy foods
2 portions of protein-rich foods
5 portions of healthy fats
That is the usual amount recommended for a healthy daily diet, but this does not take into consideration your age, body type, activity level or weight loss/fitness goals, you would need to tailor this to suit you if you really want to see the best results.
I am going to give you some examples by food group, but first:
I want to share with you a simple trick to tell how much a portion is by just using your own hand. This trick is very useful if you are out at a restaurant and are not able to measure using spoons or by weight.
Fist – If you clench your fist, this is the size of a portion of fruit or vegetables, two fists of salad leaves.
Palm – a portion of meat, fish or poultry should be no bigger than this.
Handful – holding your hand out with your fingers pointing upwards creates a small bowl shape in your hand, and two of these is one portion of carbohydrates.
Thumb – your whole thumb is the same size as one portion of cheese and two thumbs are one portion of peanut butter.
Thumb Tip – this is the size of one portion of fat, butter or oil.
What is a portion?
This list below is a little more exact and gives a few different examples:
One Portion of Fruit:
- 1 heaped dessertspoon raisins/sultanas
- 2 small fruits – plum, kiwi, satsuma, mini apple,
- 10-12 berries, cherries or grapes
- ½ grapefruit
- 1 small glass unsweetened fruit juice
- 1 small glass fruit and/or veg smoothie
- Half banana or 1 mini banana
One Portion of Vegetables:
- 1 bowl of salad leaves
- 1 small glass vegetable smoothie
- 1 small bowl home-made vegetable soup
- 6 tbsp peas / beans / lentils
- ½ squash
- ¾ cup broccoli or cauliflower
- ¾ cup carrots
One Portion of Carbohydrates:
** It is important to try to eat whole grain carbohydrates at least 50% of the time **
- 1 slice bread
- 2-3 crackers / crispbreads
- 3 tbsp flake type cereal
- 3 tbsp dry porridge oats
- 2 breakfast cereal biscuits (Weetabix etc)
- 1 medium (size of a computer mouse) potato
- 2 tbsp mashed potatoes
- 3 tbsp or ½ cup boiled rice, pasta or noodles
One Portion of Calcium-rich Dairy:
- 200ml / 7 fl oz milk or calcium-enriched soya/almond milk
- 125ml / 4.2floz yoghurt
- 25g / 0.82 oz (thumb size) cheddar or semi-soft cheese
- 50g / 1.8oz soft cheese
- 75g / 2.65oz cottage cheese
One Portion of Protein:
- 100g / 4oz raw meat or poultry
- 50-75g / 2-3oz cooked meat or poultry
- 100g / 4oz cooked fish
- 2 eggs
- 6 tbsp peas / beans / lentils
- 40g / 1.5oz unsalted nuts / peanut butter / seeds
- 100g 4oz soya / tofu
One Portion of Fats and Oils:
**Usually, one portion equates to 1tsp**
- 1 heaped tsp butter/spread
- ½ tbsp. light mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp salad dressing
- ½ medium avocado
- 8 olives
I know this is a lot of information to take in and it can get a little complicated with all the different amounts, especially when you are trying to prepare a meal!
I would recommend using the hand measurements at first if you want a simpler way of measuring, it does work and is good for when you are eating out and can’t take your measuring spoons!
You can tell how much is on your plate by comparing the amounts of each type of food to the parts of your hand (fist, palm, cupped hand, thumb, tip of thumb).
This is also true when eating a pre-prepared meal where you are advised on the packaging as to the serving size. You will be surprised at how some of these are way off!
Another note about eating out – don’t be afraid to ask the serving staff for a side plate.
You can put any extra food onto this and then move it aside so that you don’t eat it.
I find that if I’m eating out with friends or family, I’m usually talking a lot and I don’t pay attention to exactly how much I’m eating. Before I know it, my plate is empty because I have been distracted.
I find that a lot of restaurants and cafes provide portions that are far too large and you may feel pressured to clean your plate.
But if you know beforehand that you are going somewhere that serves excessive portions, you can always share a meal with someone.
Again don’t be afraid to ask the staff for another plate and don’t be embarrassed about it.
Just remember that you have goals and it is the restaurant who are wasting food by putting extra on the plates, you do not have to feel bad for eating correctly!
I really hope that this post has helped you in some way and that you are doing well in your weight loss journey or your fitness journey. I welcome any questions you may have or any suggestions for future posts in the comments section or use the contact page (above).
Some Products I would recommend:
(These are affiliate links so if you purchase them I will earn a small commission)
I will be creating meal plans in the near future if you are interested in that, so don’t be a stranger and I will see you next time!