Friday , April 26 2019

Portion Size and Serving Size – Learn to use your hands to measure these

Using your Hands to measure Portion and Serving Sizes


Hey! Ever wondered whether you were eating too much?

Most of the time, we do not know how much we consume. This is because portion sizes all vary from place to place, restaurant to restaurant, country to country, etc.

So, it is easy to get confused and you will usually be none the wiser…. unless you know what to look for.


Hence, let’s see how we can standardize these measures so we take control of how much food we ingest, thereby controlling our weight and health.


Firstly, there is often confusion between the terms Portion size and Serving size.

I bet you too would not know the difference.

If you do, then a virtual hi-five to you. However, if you do not, don’t worry, just read on further:


Serving Size: It is the unit of measure of a food item set out by a manufacturer, restaurant, or chef.

Portion Size: This is the amount you dole out to yourself. Thus, we have control over this and not over Serving size. This is an important difference. (1)
Weight Loss ebook


Portion Size

Let’s talk about portion size first, because this is what we would like to control.

Ideally, you should be eating on a smaller plate,

The theory behind this is that the same portion on a smaller plate appears larger, and conversely if you serve yourself on a large plate. So, with a larger plate, you will always tend to eat more.

In fact, in one study conducted on Buffet diners, it was found that the restaurants that served in larger plates served 52% more, the patrons ate 45% more and even wasted a whopping 135 % more food than the other restaurants that served in smaller plates. (2)


You will thus find buffer restaurants serving in smaller plates to cut costs, which actually works in the favor of the patrons too.



Source: (



When discussing Portion size, we also need to see Package size:

Now, on the other hand, in order to sell more of their goods, some manufacturers increase the size of the bag or the package.

In one study, 60 people were subjected to a test to check package size and consumption. Here, they were served an afternoon snack and dinner. The snacks consisted of different sized bags of potato chips. After five days, it was found that the participants that consumed from the larger bag of chips ingested an average of 143 kcal extra than their counterparts that consumed from the smaller bags. (3)


Thus, instead of consuming from the package directly, you might be better off pouring the content into a small bowl, before eating. Also, the bowl being empty, after consumption, is a good visual cue.


So, how can you quantify your ideal portion size?

Now, the ideal portion size, as per the US Department of Agriculture’s My plate initiative, should be half your plate with Salads/ Vegetables and Fruits, one-quarter with Proteins and the last quarter with Carbs. Alongside this, we have a small portion of Diary. (4)

correct Portion size


Now, let us define it further, as we all will not always be talking about the same plate size.

Let us see some ready reckoner checks for Portion sizes, which only requires your hands…yes literally.

Meat – The size of your palm

Fish – Your palm including your forefingers

Pasta/ Rice/ Carbs – One cupped hand

Vegetables and Salads – How much ever you wish to eat.


Serving Size

This takes us to the next thing we looked at, in the beginning, that is, Serving size:

This would come into play when either you are measuring something out as part of a diet or for a recipe.

Again, we will make use of our hands to show us the way:

Serving and Portion Sizes


The Fist Check:

Use your clenched fist to indicate one cup servings, when it comes to things like grains, vegetables, and just any other carbs.


The Palm check:

Use your open palm to check measure out a 3 to 5 Oz serving of Chicken, Fish, or any other Meat.


One cupped hand:

Half a cup of vegetables, pasta, etc.


The Thumb check:

Use your Thumb to measure one Tablespoon of any item like butter, cheese, etc.


The Fingertip check:

Use your Fingertip to measure out one Teaspoon of any food.


serving size

So, there it goes. Simple, isn’t it?

Wish you all the best in measuring out the portion and Serving sizes for yourself.


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Serving and Portion Sizes

Portion Size and Serving Size | How to practically measure them out
Portion Size and Serving Size | How to practically measure them out

About Kneller

Kneller Fernandes is the founder of “Stay Fit n Young .com”. He is a NESTA certified "Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist". He lives in Mumbai with his wife and two kids. Know more about him here.


  1. Merlyn Concessio

    Thanks Kneller. This really helps. Have to remember the portion Vs serving size.

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