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Portion Control - The Other Big O

Portion Control

by Lauren on April 20, 2011


Eating healthy is important, but so is the amount of food you eat, even if it’s considered healthy. So, it’s important to know what is considered a reasonable portion for the major food groups. Once you know your portions it will allow you to feel satisfied with one plate of food, and less likely to overeat and gain weight.

One of the foods that I find difficult to portion control is chicken. It’s considered a healthy food (provided its free-from chemicals, roasted & without skin), but that doesn’t mean we can go crazy with it. For example, I often buy organic roast chickens, but how do you know how much to put on your plate?

I recently bought a food scale and did some research on food portions, and a portion of chicken is 3 – 4 oz (I would say 4 oz for guys) or approximately the size of a deck of cards or your palm. I weighed out 3 oz last night, and its equivalent to the amount of chicken on 1 small leg (I took the meat off the bone). I didn’t think it would be enough food, but it was! In fact, I couldn’t even finish it (keep in mind we also had quinoa & a spinach salad). I think sometimes we have the mentality that we have to finish what’s on our plate, which can be problematic if we pile too much food on there. However, if you know your portions, you can finish your plate knowing you haven’t overeaten! That being said, it’s also important to listen to your body. If you’re full, stop eating! Just because you have the proper portions on your plate, don’t feel like you have to finish it. When you’re done eating; you should feel satisfied, not full, and whatever you don’t eat makes for great leftovers!

Portions Guide: 

To start things off, and keep it simple, this is what your plate should look like:

½ plate: vegetables – raw or steamed (ie. salad, steamed broccoli)
¼ plate or palm-size: protein (ie. fish, lean red meat, poultry, legumes)
¼ plate or fist-size: starch or whole grains (ie. sweet potatoes, ww pasta, brown rice, quinoa)

Protein-rich foods 1 serving:
-Red meat (pork, lamb, beef) & poultry: 3-4 oz or the size of your palm, which is about the size of a hamburger patty (the bigger the palm; the bigger the portion)
-Fish: 3.5 oz or 1 ½ decks of cards or ¾ cup canned
-Legumes (lentils, beans, peas): 5 oz or 1 fist-size
-2 eggs

Whole Grains & Potatoes 1 serving:
-Potatoes (regular & sweet), Root Vegetables, Squash: 5 oz or 1 fist-size
-WW pasta, brown rice or other whole grains: 5 oz or 1 fist-size
-Oatmeal: 1/3 cup

Dairy 1 serving:
-Cheese: 1.5 oz or about the size of 4 dice
-Milk: 1 cup
-Yogurt: 1 pot or 150 ml

Healthy Fats & Oils 1 serving:
-Nuts & Seeds: ¼ cup or 1 small handful
-Oil: 1 tbsp
-Avocado: 1/4 large or 1/2 small
-Nut butter: 2 tbsps or about the size of a golf ball

Fruit 1 serving:
-1 medium fruit (apple, banana, pear, peach)
-1-2 small fruits (plums, kiwi)
-8-16 grapes & berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
-Dried fruit (raisins & apricots): ¼ cup or 1 small handful

Vegetables 1 serving:
-Broccoli, cauliflower: 2-3 spears
-1 large carrot
-5 cherry tomatoes

Conveniently, many foods will put the amount of calories/serving on their nutritional information, which most of the time is the same as a healthy portion. This can serve as a reminder for you of how much you should be eating, and help you keep track of your calorie intake for the day.

When it comes to fruits & veggies, I think it’s more about trying to meet your daily requirements, rather than be careful not to overdo it. If you’re a female between the ages of 19 – 50; Canada’s Food Guide recommends 7-8 servings of fruits & veg per day (its 7-10 servings for males in that age group). That’s about 6-7 cups of fruit & veg every day.

This can be hard to keep track of, so let’s keep it simple. Try and incorporate 2 pieces of fruit everyday; with breakfast & for a mid-morning snack. Have a salad or 1 cup of raw veggies with lunch, 1 piece of fruit or some veg for your afternoon snack (you can add in some protein with your snacks like natural nut butter or hummus). And have a salad and some cooked veggies with dinner. Voila! Not so bad is it?

I know eating healthy can sometimes seem overwhelming, but the more you know, the easier it gets, and it will soon become second nature. It’s all about living a healthy lifestyle and enjoying everything in moderation.


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