Well-portioned plate of food with text overlay: Easy Peasy Portion Control

[Wellness Wednesday] Easy Peasy Portion Control

Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday! As I mentioned in Monday’s post, today I’d like to talk a little about portion control.

Do you ever look at old cookbooks? I have a Betty Crocker cookbook that I’ve had for over 30 years, and I still use it fairly often. Each recipe includes a little tag at the end that says, “____ Servings. When I look at those serving sizes it’s easy to see just how out of control our portion sizes have become.

When you go to a restaurant now, at least here in the U.S., the portions are huge. Most of the time, there’s enough food for at least two meals.

With all this super-sized food coming at us, how are we supposed to control how much we eat? Many of us grew up with the admonishment to “clean your plate” or “if you don’t finish your dinner, you don’t get any dessert” and no matter how much food comes out on that plate, we’re going to eat it.

Of course, it’s easier to control portion sizes when we cook and eat at home, but sometimes knowing how much of different types of food we should eat can be difficult. We want to eat reasonable servings and get enough of the right foods to nourish our bodies, but do we have to weigh or measure everything?

Many of you may be familiar with the old, “protein serving is about the size of a deck of cards, carb serving is the size of a baseball,” etc.. This is an easy way to remember serving sizes, but I’d like to share another way to estimate portion sizes that may be even easier.

It uses a tool you always have with you, no matter where you’re eating — your hand.

How It Works:

You use different parts of your hand to determine portion sizes for proteins (meat, fish, poultry, beans and legumes, etc.), vegetables, starchy carbohydrates, and fat.

Woman's Palm



Protein portions

should be about the

size of your palm.






Woman's Fist


Vegetable portions

should be about the size of

your fist.




Woman's Cupped Hand


Your cupped hand

determines your starchy

carbohydrate portions.



Woman's Thumb



Your thumb represents

your fat portions.




Why This System Works So Well:

  • First of all, as we already talked about, your hands go everywhere with you, and you don’t have to try to remember how big they are. All you have to do is look at them.
  • The size of our hands is commensurate with our body size. People who are larger have bigger hands, which is great, because they need larger portion sizes to fuel their bodies. Take a look at the difference in my hand and my hubby’s – you can see how much bigger his protein portion size would be than mine:

  • Using your hands to determine your different portion sizes can help ensure you get the correct amounts of nutrient-dense foods. If you’re eating those whole, minimally-processed foods in appropriate portion sizes, you can meet your body’s requirements without having to weigh and/or measure everything.


These portion guidelines are for one portion. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should only eat one portion at each meal. It just gives you a visual to help you know  how much you’re eating. Individual needs will determine how many portions of each food we should eat. These individual needs can vary a lot, depending on a person’s size, activity level, medical conditions, etc.

According to Berardi, et. al. (see Resource below), a good starting point for most active people who eat about four meals per day:

“Men might begin by eating: 2 palms of protein-dense foods, 2 fists of vegetables, 2 cupped handfuls of carb-dense foods, and 2 thumbs of fat-dense foods. And for each meal, women might begin by eating 1 palm of protein-dense foods, 1 fist of vegetables, 1 cupped handful of carb-dense foods, and 1 thumb of fat-dense foods.”

This does not mean that men need twice as much food as women or that women need half as much as men – this is just a starting point. As we discussed above, each individual is different and each person’s needs will differ. These are just estimates. If you have questions about how calories, portions, etc., you should be eating, you can check out https://www.choosemyplate.gov/resources/MyPlatePlan or consult with a Registered Dietician.

Having an easy way to keep an eye on our portion sizes can help us ensure we get the nutrition our bodies need and keep us from overeating without having to be obsessed with every ounce of food we put in our mouths. When we don’t have to work so hard at it, we can be more consistent with eating well.

Do you find it easy to keep portion sizes reasonable? What are some of your tips and tricks to make sure you’re eating enough/not overeating? Please share!






The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition, Third Edition, Certification Manual, 2019, John Berardi, PhD, CSCS; Ryan Andrews, MS, MA, RD; Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, CSCS; Krista Scott-Dixon, PhD; Helen Kollias, PhD, CSCS; Camille DePutter; Precision Nutrition, www.precisionnutrition.com


  1. Wonderful post. I totally agree about portion size over the last 30 years. My first job at Fast food – 1978 – small fry and large fry have both doubled in size now. Great reminder on the protein portion = palm of hand. I may have heard the other measurements before today and just didn’t remember those. Thank you for Monday and Wed posts. Perfect timing

    1. Thank you so much Sarah! It’s amazing to see just how much larger the portion sizes are for almost everything now. I like having something to go by for portion sizes because although I’m usually pretty good about “guesstimating” measurements, sometimes those measures slide to the “more robust” side if I’m not careful. 😁 Sending lots of love and hugs your way!

  2. I have my grandmother’s Betty Crocker cookbook – I have no idea how old it is, but yes, portions have changed! I like this way of doing portion control. Thank you for the info!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Sandy! What a treasure, having your Grandmother’s cookbook. It’s the little things that often mean the most, isn’t it? I’m glad you found this helpful. Let me know how it works for you. Blessings to you!

    1. Awww…. thank you so much Wendi! I’m glad you found this helpful. I’m just happy to be able to share things I learn. Sending love and hugs your way!

  3. I’m not great with portions but actually when I eat out, I prefer to see a larger portion size (better value for money) and yet rarely make it past half way 😂Great tips on getting the sizing and good note on how it’s an individual thing as to how many portions of what you may need because we’re all different. Another wonderfully helpful post, Terri! xx

    1. Thank you so much Caz! I completely understand what you mean about feeling you get a better value when there’s more food on the plate. I couldn’t eat at one of those
      uber-fancy places where you get tiny portions of food; I’d feel I was being cheated.😂 When I get those big portions, though, I just kind of mentally split everything in half and only eat half of it. Then I take the rest of it home for the next day. 😊 Sending hugs your way!

  4. This was great Terri! I really like how you explained the size of a hand determines how much you need… and we are each different in nutritional needs, eat accordingly! Very good! I have one of those Betty Crocker cookbooks too… what have we done to ourselves? Supersized our portions! I used to use the clock as portion control… until I figured out I could change the size of the clock yo meet my needs!🙄😖 Going now with my hand!😊💜

    1. Thanks so much Kim! I’m glad you found the the hands helpful. It certainly is easier to remember, isn’t it? Is your Betty Crocker cookbook as old as mine? I’m pretty sure I got mine in 1984 – it was a wedding gift when I married my first husband. Yikes! I can’t believe I’m so old!😂 Hope you’re doing well sweet friend. Sending hugs your way!

      1. I had the original… from an auction house. Then I had the revised. Both, unfortunately have been sold! Not coming with in the RV. Kinda need to cook differently! But they were fun when I was first married!!! Have a great weekend my friend!

  5. I really enjoyed this Terri. I especially liked the fact that you included pictures to indicate portion sizes and their correlation to your food. Although this will get some getting use to, I’m going to start slow and get adjusted to what is what. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks so much Mark – I’m glad you found it helpful! I would say, if you already have a way that works for you, I wouldn’t change it – Why fix what’s not broken? – but if you need an easy way to start looking at portion sizes, this might work for you. Blessings to you!

  6. Great post we do use those portion sizes but that’s a great way with our individual hands for easy reference Terri! Thank you!

    My friend & her family recently visited the US & were shocked at the ordered portion sizes served to them, they had 6 adults & 4 children in their family group & they soon learnt to order only 3 meals between the adults & 1 between the children because they were so huge! And they still all felt very satisfied!

    1. Thanks for sharing Jennifer! I wondered if portion sizes were as large other places as they are here, so I guess this answers my question….😊 Hope you’re doing well. Blessings to you!

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