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This Handy Guide to Portion Sizes Will Show You How Much is Too Much

November 25, 2015 4 min read

If you feel like you eat well and forgo junk food most of the time, but still can't seem to whittle down your waist, you may be interested to find out that portion control has a lot to do with it. "Most people don't know what an appropriate portion should look like," explains Sian Porter, who is a consultant dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. "But even healthy food contains calories. You can make really healthy choices and still eat too much." There aren't any official UK guidelines on portion sizes, or even rules for food manufacturers to inform you of what exactly counts as a serving. And a  2013 report from the British Heart Foundation discovered that portion sizes have changed in the last 20 years, with ready-made portions increasing by 50 percent. The size of a cookie has increased by 17 percent, adding 3,330 more calories to your diet each year. "Plates and wine glasses keep getting bigger, too," notes Sian Porter. And research says we aren't very good at putting the correct amount of food on our plates. We over-estimate serving sizes and under-estimate calorie content. But our guidance might be partially at fault says a 2012 paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. We're told we should consume two portions of oily fish a week, yet we're not made aware of what that is. And the NHS's "Eat Well plate" just tells us to eat "plenty" of vegetable and starchy carbs, "some" protein and "some" milk. It also says we should just eat a small amount of fat and sugar. Meanwhile, nutritional content and serving size on packaging is listed in grams, yet most of us don't weigh our food. [bctt tweet="This Handy Guide to Portion Sizes Will Show You How Much is Too Much"] So what can we do to become more aware of how much we should consume? Good Health gives us the answer, as Sian Porter explains what an appropriate portion of basic foods would be. She also proves how each looks in relation to the size of a hand. "The obvious advantage of using your hands is that you always have them with you. Plus it's proportional. If you're a bigger person, you'll need a bigger portion, but your hands will be bigger so the portion is adapted automatically. Likewise, children need child-size portions, the size of their hands."

MEAT: PALM OF THE HAND

A guide to portion sizes. This is roughly 100g and the thickness of a deck of cards. "Aim to have a portion of protein this size at every meal - you should spread protein throughout the day as we process it better in smaller, regular amounts," notes Sian Porter. "But don't have more than 500g of red meat in a week. Choose other protein such as fish, beans, or pulses."

WHITE FISH: WHOLE HAND

A guide to portion sizes. White fish is low in fat and calories. This is about 150g. "White fish is great, because its protein is naturally low in fat," explains Sian Porter. "It has only a small amount of omega-3s, but is a good source of selenium, important for the immune system and healthy hair and nails."

UNCOOKED SPINACH: TWO DOUBLE HANDFULS

A guide to portion sizes. This is about 80g — close to a whole bag! "You should have vegetables with every meal and, as the picture shows, a couple of slices of lettuce in a sandwich won't cut it," explains Sian Porter. "So buy a pot of salad to have on the side."

SMALL FRUITS: TWO CUPPED PALMS

A guide to portion sizes. "A packet of blueberries is about 250g, which is three portions - so you don't have to eat the entire punnet," explains Sian Porter. "There'd be no harm eating this much (it would give you around 90 calories), though grapes would have more sugar and 161 calories."

VEGETABLES: CLENCHED FIST

A guide to portion sizes.

"Twice this amount of broccoli would technically count as two of your five a day, though variety is key - aim for a rainbow selection of different coloured veg," explains Sian Porter. "Have several portions of veg - they should fill half a plate."

UNCOOKED PASTA: CLENCHED FIST

A guide to portion sizes. Once cooked, pasta doubles in weight. This is 75g and 219 calories. Carbs should only make up a quarter of your plate and protein should make up another quarter. The rest should be vegetables.

NUTS: ONE PALM

A guide to portion sizes.

"Nuts and seeds are a great snack, they're filling and contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, but they are calorific," explains Sian Porter. "Try to eat nuts and seeds one by one, spaced out, rather than a few at once."

POTATO: CLENCHED FIST

A guide to portion sizes.

"A portion of carbs should be around 200 calories (250 for a man)," explains Sian Porter. "The potato here is 180g giving 175 calories, but baking potatoes can be twice as big - so think about sharing one between two."

Sweet potatoes are the same except they would count for one of your five-a-day, unlike white potatoes.

OILY FISH: PALM OF HAND

A guide to portion sizes.

This is about 100g and has around 200 calories. "Unless you're trying to lose weight, a slightly bigger portion won't do you any harm," explains Sian Porter.

BUTTER: THUMB TIP

A serving no bigger than a teaspoon is ideal. And you should have no more than two to three portions a day.

CHOCOLATE: INDEX FINGER

This piece of chocolate has about 100 calories and would be an appropriate treat to give yourself.

A guide to portion sizes.

CHEESE: TWO THUMBS

This is about 30g and has 125 calories. "This shows you could easily eat 100 calories without thinking," explains Sian Porter.

CAKE: TWO FINGERS

This piece of cake is about 185 calories and is a good treat.

A guide to portion sizes. Do you think you have your portions in check? Source: Daily Mail

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