Portion Control Tips & Tricks from a Registered Dietitian

Wednesday, 13 July 2016 08:10 AM Written by  Andrew Wade

We’ve all heard the saying “Too much of a good thing.” This proves to be true in nutrition and health. Even if your diet consists of the nutrient dense foods, it’s important to keep portion sizes in mind so that you aren’t overeating and taking away from your efforts to eat right.

When we’re meal prepping for the week or making dinner, we have easy access to measuring cups, scales, and tools to make sure that our portion sizes are in accordance to our meal plans. But what about the times when we’re out to eat or throwing together a quick meal on the go? A useful tool that we can use to control our portion sizes and stay on track is learning to visualize serving sizes by comparing them to every day household objects and even your own hand!


Below is a list of common portion sizes paired with the area of your hand and a household item that can be used to represent them.

1 Teaspoon

 Tip of your thumb (between tip of thumb and first knuckle)

One die

Examples: Oils, dressings, butter

1 Tablespoon

 Thumb (tip of thumb to the base)

Poker chip

Examples: Nut butters, dressings, oils

3 oz of Meat

 Palm of your hand

Deck of cards

Examples: Chicken, beef

1-2 oz

 Handful/cupped hand

Examples: mixed nuts, pretzels, trail mix

1/2 Cup

 Half of a fist full

Billard ball

Examples: Oats

1 Cup

 Clenched fist

Tennis ball

Examples: Rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables

Here’s an example of a day’s meals and how you can apply the above information to eat appropriate portion sizes:

Breakfast: 1/2 cup of oats (billard ball)

1/2 cup of blueberries (billiard ball)

1 tablespoon peanut butter (thumb)

Snack: Apple (tennis ball/fist)

2 oz mixed nuts (small handful)

Lunch: 3 oz Grilled Chicken Breast (palm of hand)

2-cup vegetable medley (two fists)

Dinner out: Chicken Parmesan and side salad

Pasta (set aside a serving the size of your fist for dinner and put the rest in a to-go box to save for another meal)

Chicken (size of your palm)

Side Salad (2 cups of mixed greens/vegetables is the size of two fists. Ask for the dressing on the side and use 1 tablespoon, the size of your thumb or a golf ball)

Paying attention to serving sizes using tips and tricks like these allows you to control calorie intake without having to worry about all the details of food preparation.  Apply them to your daily routine for easy portion control! 

Andrew Wade, the author of this blog post, is a Registered Dietitian and the founder of Case Specific Nutrition. To learn about their services or for more tips and tricks like those found in this article, schedule a consultation with a Registered Dietitian at Case Specific Nutrition

Case Specific Nutrition is also a member of the Pittsburgh Fitness Council, a professional member organization that strives to connect the best professionals in the area to provide and enhance client services. For more information about PFC and its members, please visit www.pghfitcouncil.com.



Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.