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Proper Portion Practice

What Actual Serving Sizes Look Like and How They Relate to Health

Last month we talked about the importance of reducing food waste and how controlling portion sizes can help prevent food from landing in the trash. Now let’s take a deeper look at why portion control is necessary for health, what proper portions should look like and how you can easily estimate serving sizes—no scales or measuring cups necessary! 

Over the last few decades, portion distortion has gotten out of control in the United States because we are used to seeing super-sized servings. Gigantic burgers, humongous soft drinks, and oversized cupcakes have become the norm at restaurants and eateries, and as portions grow our waistlines follow suit. With a national obesity rate of over 68% there needs to be a change. 

While several restaurants and companies are making strides to reduce portion sizes and increase the nutritional value of the foods they sell, one of the easiest ways to control portion sizes is to cook your food at home—and it doesn’t have to be a nuisance. This chart shows how simple it is to estimate proper portion sizes using household items or your hands, a method recently validated in an Australian study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science. Follow this guide to make a perfectly portioned plate.

Food Group

Serving Size

Hand Measurement

Object Measurement

Fresh fruit

1 medium piece/1 cup

One fist


Fresh vegetables

1 cup

One fist


Cooked pasta

1 cup

One fist



½ cup

Half fist/small first

Racquet ball


1 slice


CD Case

Poultry, fish

3 ounces

Palm of hand

Deck of cards

Nuts and dried fruit

1 ounce or ¼ cup


Large egg

Peanut butter

2 tablespoons

Two thumbs

Golf ball


1 ounce


Pair of dice

Keep in mind, everyone has different nutrition needs and these serving sizes are a starting point. Work with a dietitian to determine the best diet plan for you.

Published May 1, 2017

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