Hand-y Guide to Portion Control

We’ve probably all studied the government nutrition recommendations in school, and everyone has heard how terrible a problem the country has with diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other diet related illnesses. But have you ever thought about this? The recommended dietary guidelines might be a bit too much food for a middle aged woman of five feet two who sits down a lot working in an office at the same time that it wouldn’t meet the calorie needs of a gym loving 22 year old college football player.  Besides differences in activity level, gender, and age, such people would greatly differ in size, and thus the approximate number of calories they could burn no matter their activity level or age. Good thing you can use your body’s size as one way to estimate how much food you might need, then.  Your hand is usually fairly proportionate to the rest of your body, so it can be used as a guide for proper portion control. Here’s how.

  • Your fist is one serving of veggies, fruits, grains, or starches. Examples are a piece of fruit like an apple or mashed sweet potatoes.


  • Your palm is about one serving of meats or breads. The salmon filet pictured here is just about right.



  • Your thumb is one serving of fats and sweeteners, or about one teaspoon for most people. Be especially careful with sweeteners, since they are so calorie dense and there’s really no need for them as far as nutrition goes.



  • Your hand full is one serving of leafy greens and high air content snack foods like popcorn or pretzels. Obviously, salad is a much better choice, but we wanted a snack when we were writing this. Three or four handfuls of greens would be packed with nutrition and make a killer salad, though.


If you feel like you still need a little more information, experts say your plate should always be at least 50% non-starchy vegetables, 25% fruit, starchy vegetables, or whole grains, then 25% or less of proteins like meats, legumes, eggs, and dairy.  Add to that one teaspoon to one tablespoon nutritious fat like avocadoes, coconut, or olives, depending on your size and dietary needs, and you’ve got a formula for a healthy, satisfying meal.

This entry was published on November 17, 2014 at 5:28 pm and is filed under Healthy eating, Wellness. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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