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A Quick and Easy Way to Estimate Portion Size

To reach and maintain a healthy weight, it’s essential that you’re eating proper portion sizes. Apps like LIVESTRONG.COM’s free Calorie Tracker use technology to help make the process easier. But how can you be sure you’re eating the right amounts without weighing and measuring your food all the time?

Measuring food portions with your hand.

All you need is the ability to count to “2″ and your own hand. Here’s how it works:

-Your palm determines your protein portions.
-Your fist determines your veggie portions.
-Your cupped hand determines your carb portions.
-Your thumb determines your fat portions.


To see what this looks like in action, check out this calorie control guide for men:

Here's what the calorie control guide for women looks like:

Measuring Protein: For protein-dense foods like meat, fish, eggs, dairy, or beans, use a palm-sized serving.

For men: two palm-sized portions with each meal.
For women: one palm-sized portion with each meal.

Note: A palm-sized portion is the same thickness and diameter as your palm.

Measuring Vegetables: For veggies like broccoli, spinach, salad, carrots, etc. use a fist-sized serving.

For men: two fist-sized portions of vegetables with each meal.
For women: one fist-sized portion of vegetables with each meal.

Measuring Carbohydrates: If you're including extra carbohydrates in a meal — like grains, starches or fruits — use a cupped hand to determine your serving size.

For men: two cupped-hand sized portions of other carbohydrates.
For women: one cupped-hand sized portion of other carbohydrates.

Measuring Fat: If you're including extra fats in a meal - like oils, butters, nut butters, nuts/seeds - use your entire thumb to determine your serving size.

For men: two thumb-sized portions of extra fats.
For women: one thumb-sized portion of extra fats.

Of course, if you're a bigger person, you probably have a bigger hand and if you're smaller, you probably have a smaller hand. This means your own hand can be a personalized (and portable) measuring device for your food intake.

True, some people do have larger or smaller hands for their body size. Still, our hand size correlates pretty closely with general body size, including muscle, bone — the whole package.

Based on the guidelines above, which assume you'll be eating about three or four times a day, you now have a simple and flexible guide for meal planning.

For men:

-2 palms of protein dense foods with each meal.
-2 fists of vegetables with each meal.
-2 cupped hands of carb dense foods if including extra carbs.
-2 entire thumbs of fat dense foods if including extra fats.

For women:

-1 palm of protein dense foods with each meal;
-1 fist of vegetables with each meal;
-1 cupped hand of carb dense foods if including extra carbs;
-1 entire thumb of fat dense foods if including extra fats.

Just like any other form of nutrition planning -- including calorie counting - this serves as a starting point. So stay flexible and adjust your portions based on your hunger, fullness and other important goals.

For example: If you're having trouble gaining weight, you might add another cupped palm of carbohydrates or another thumb of fats. Likewise, if you're trying to lose weight but seem to have stalled out, you might eliminate a cupped palm of carbohydrates or a thumb of fats at particular meals.

In the end, if you've been frustrated with calorie counting, you're not alone. Instead of counting grams and weighing your intake, give this portion control guide a try.

– John

Want help finding the best exercise, eating and lifestyle advice for you? Download these free starter kits for men and women:

Health and Fitness Starter Kit for Women 
Health and Fitness Starter Kit for Men

John Berardi, Ph.D., is a founder of Precision Nutrition, the world’s largest online nutrition coaching company. He also sits on the health and performance advisory boards of Nike, Titleist and Equinox. In the past five years, Dr. Berardi and his team have personally helped more than 30,000 people improve their eating, lose weight and boost their health through their renowned Precision Nutrition Coaching program.

Learn more at the Precision Nutrition website and on Facebook and Twitter.


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