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PortionControl

Portion control is a critical part of healthy eating, so let’s start with the basics.

What is a Portion Size?

The amount of food you eat at any given time is referred to as a portion size. Depending on your food choices (or recommendations from your Registered Dietitian), your portion size may differ from a serving size (the amount used to calculate the Nutrition Facts of a packaged product).

A Handy Guide to Portion Sizes

To help you estimate appropriate portions, your hands are the perfect tools – make use of these handy measures for healthy meal and snack planning:

Both Hands

Good for measuring 1 portion of:

  • Brightly coloured vegetables (e.g., spinach, broccoli, peppers, green/yellow beans, zucchini, etc.)
Fist (1 Cup)

Good for measuring 1 portion of:

  • Whole fruit
  • Cold cereal
  • Yogurt
  • Milk and soy beverage
  • Legumes (e.g., peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas)
1/2 Fist (½ Cup)

Good for measuring 1 portion of:

  • Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables
  • Fresh, frozen or canned fruit
  • Grains (e.g., pasta, rice, quinoa, barley)
Cupped Hand (¼ Cup)

Good for measuring
1 portion of:

  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts and seeds

Good for measuring 1 portion of:

  • Brightly coloured vegetables (e.g., spinach, broccoli, peppers, green/yellow beans, zucchini, etc.)

Good for measuring 1 portion of:

  • Whole fruit
  • Cold cereal
  • Yogurt
  • Milk and soy beverage
  • Legumes (e.g., peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas)

Good for measuring 1 portion of:

  • Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables
  • Fresh, frozen or canned fruit
  • Grains (e.g., pasta, rice, quinoa, barley)

Good for measuring
1 portion of:

  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
Palm (2½ ounces)

Good for measuring
1 portion of:

  • Fish
  • Meat and poultry
Flat Hand

Good for measuring
1 portion of:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • ½ bagel, pita or tortilla
Thumb (1 Tablespoon)

Good for measuring 1 portion of:

  • Cheese (2 thumbs)
  • Peanut butter (2 thumbs)
  • Oil (1 thumb or 1 thumb tip)
  • Margarine & butter (1 thumb or 1 thumb tip)
  • Mayonnaise & sauces (1 thumb or 1 thumb tip)
Thumb Tip (1 Teaspoon)

Good for measuring 1 portion of:

  • Cheese (2 thumbs)
  • Peanut butter (2 thumbs)
  • Oil (1 thumb or 1 thumb tip)
  • Margarine & butter (1 thumb or 1 thumb tip)
  • Mayonnaise & sauces (1 thumb or 1 thumb tip)

Good for measuring
1 portion of:

  • Fish
  • Meat and poultry

Good for measuring
1 portion of:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • ½ bagel, pita or tortilla

Good for measuring 1 portion of:

  • Cheese (2 thumbs)
  • Peanut butter (2 thumbs)
  • Oil (1 thumb or 1 thumb tip)
  • Margarine & butter (1 thumb or 1 thumb tip)
  • Mayonnaise & sauces (1 thumb or 1 thumb tip)
Friendly Tip:

To calibrate your handy measures, compare each with the amount you get from a measuring cup or spoon.

The Plate Method

You can also use a plate to help estimate healthy portion sizes.

Plate with space divided for vegetables, grains & starches, meat & other protein Plate with space divided for vegetables, grains & starches, meat & other protein

Aim for:

½ plate = vegetables

(i.e., garden salad, Greek salad, steamed or grilled vegetables, etc.)

¼ plate = meat & other protein

(i.e., lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, tofu, vegetable protein, chickpeas*, beans*, lentils*, etc.)

¼ plate = grains & starches

(i.e., brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, barley, sweet potatoes, etc.)


Round off your meal with a piece of fruit


* Chickpeas, beans and lentils also contain carbohydrates.

Adapted from Diabetes Canada, 2018

TIP: If your food is typically served in a bowl, these same portion principles apply.
  • ½ bowl = vegetables
  • ¼ bowl = meat & other protein
  • ¼ bowl = grains & starches
  • Round off your meal with a piece of fruit

Adapted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012.

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