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Do This and You Don’t Have to Obsess About Portion Sizes

Have you wondered if your health would be under better control if your portion sizes were too?


Or, are you not even sure what a reasonable portion size is anymore?


We have great news for you!

The reality is if you focus on nutrient-rich REAL food, you really don’t have to obsess about portion sizes!

Dr. Mark Hyman put it best in the documentary, “Fed Up.”  When recommending the most powerful thing people can do for themselves and their families...the advice was simple:  "EAT REAL FOOD!"  When a mom asked how much of this REAL food they could eat, Dr. Hyman said, “When you eat food with a lot of nutrients and fiber…it’s going to make you full before it will make you fat.”  So true!  In the movie, when this family followed this guidance, they lost a combined 124 pounds in 6 months!

In an ideal world, we would all just EAT REAL FOOD, enjoying it slowly and mindfully, and stop eating when we are satisfied.


But the reality is a very different story.

Our environment creates many temptations to keep us from doing this.  We are surrounded by temptations to eat a lot of processed foods (which leave us craving more).

We may find ourselves eating way too fast (often in front of a TV, computer or other electronic device).  And, we often eat until we are “stuffed” (not just no longer hungry).  The old saying is takes our stomachs 20 minutes to signal our brains that we are full.



When it comes to portion sizes, there are some good rules of thumb (no pun intended):


  • Palm of your hand:  3 oz. serving of fish, chicken, beef and other meats.
  • Closed fist:  represents 1 cup.  Many recommend 1 to 2 cup portions for leafy greens, 1 cup portions for foods like fruits, vegetables, yogurt, soups, beans and legumes, and 1/2 cup portions for pasta, rice, cereals and ice cream.
  • Full size of your thumb:  represents 1 Tbsp.  Many recommend this for foods like olive oil, salad dressing, nut butters, cheese and dark chocolate.
  • Half size of your thumb (from tip of thumb to first knuckle) or fingertip:  represents 1 tsp.  Many recommend this for spreads like butter.
  • Handful:  represents 1 to 2 oz.  This is a good measure for bread, nuts, dried fruits and other snack foods.


Load Up on the Greens!

We encourage you to think of the dark leafy greens as a minimum instead of a maximum.  Fresh greens are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber.  We could go on and on about all the reasons to load up on fresh greens.   So remember, don’t limit yourself to only 1 or 2 cup portions of these nutrient-rich veggies...the goal should be to enjoy 10 fist size servings of fruits and veggies EVERY DAY!


Other useful tips:


  • Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day (including a healthy breakfast).  This will keep you satisfied throughout the day and avoid situations when you are starving because you haven’t eaten for 5 or 6 hours.  When you're starving, your ability to follow good portion sizes goes out the window!


  • Find bowls, plates and “on-the-go” containers that help you maintain good portion sizes.  We use large bowls for salads and small plates for main dishes and sides.  Or, we use a large plate and fill half of it with salad and veggies.  Coffee mugs are great for soups and ice cream!


  • To help you not overdo pasta, eat 2 parts veggies to 1 part pasta.  And when it's whole-grain pasta, the additional fiber it contains functions like a built-in "fill you up" portion regulator.


  • Make veggies the focus of your meals.  Keep in mind, the power of including more veggies on your plate makes it easy to control your meat portions.  Stir fries are a great way to help keep meats at "condiment" proportions.


  • Use extra caution when eating out.  Many restaurant portion sizes are huge!  For example, if you eat the Spicy Cashew Chicken at The Cheesecake Factory, you will have consumed 1,820 calories, 244 grams of carbs and a whopping 4,200 mg of sodium...eek, not good!  If you made the Eat REAL America Cashew Chicken Bok Choy, a portion of 1.5 cups over 1/2 cup of rice provides 500 calories, 62 grams of carbs and 640 mg of sodium.  Even if you ate a double-serving of the Eat REAL America version, your calories, carbs and sodium would still be well under The Cheesecake Factory version.  Plus, you would be plenty full even before you finished this double-serving.  This is why we prefer to eat meals prepared at home whenever possible!


  • Have you heard of our Pizza Code of Conduct?  It's challenging to not overdo it on pizza, even when it is made with REAL ingredients.  Therefore, instill the habit of always enjoying your pizza with a good-sized salad first.  Then, a moderate slice or two of pizza will seem like the perfect portion.


  • Don’t eat directly out of the box, bag or container.  Instead, serve yourself a reasonable portion in a bowl or on a plate.


  • Avoid buffets…our willpower isn’t strong enough, plus you will feel obligated to try to get your money’s worth!


Our biggest advice?


  1. Eat REAL food!
  2. Eat mindfully (which means slowly) and stop when you are satisfied!
  3. Don’t obsess!  If you absolutely must obsess about something, direct your attention to limiting or avoiding foods that are ultra-processed, leaving plenty of room for the delicious and nutritious REAL food!


Do you have a portion tip you follow to keep you from going overboard?



Leave A Comment

6 Responses to Do This and You Don’t Have to Obsess About Portion Sizes

  1. Yes, Zonya and I both agree that this also applies to vegetables. It’s REAL food, so you will feel full before it becomes too much. The only exception would be for some people who may need to manage starchy vegetables such as white potatoes and corn. For those, of course you can enjoy them, but you wouldn’t want to go overboard. The best thing to do is to listen and trust your own hunger/fullness gauge. Thank you for asking!

  2. Such a great article! I needed the reminders that you point out. We struggle getting a variety of vegetables in the winter. Looking forward to Farmers Market this summer!

  3. Portion control can be a challenge when it comes to eating meals, so knowing how much of everything to incorporate into one’s diet goes a long way. I like the hand trick you detailed here in particular.

  4. I love this tip because it encourages you to Eat Real food but doesn’t focus on the things you shouldn’t eat. Better to talk about what to include and to learn eating cues! Great information!

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