A Visual Guide to Portion Sizes

What Is The Best Portion Size For Weight loss?

Portion size refers to the amount of food you eat in one sitting. It includes everything you serve on your plate during a meal. Sometimes it is used interchangeably with serving size, but the two are not the same thing. Serving size is the recommended amount of a particular type of food one should eat. 

Are you wondering ‘how much should I eat?’ How much food one should eat depends on their age, sex, weight, height, level of physical activity, health, and genetics. Depending on these factors, some individuals require larger portions than others. For example, if you are an athlete, your body requires more energy, so you need more food than a worker who sits at a desk all day.

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume to create a calorie deficit. Weight loss is a gradual process and does not occur overnight. To shed the extra pounds, one usually needs to adopt a healthier lifestyle, including eating smaller portions, limiting processed foods, and increasing your level of physical activity. 

When trying to lose weight, you might starve yourself or eat too little food to drastically reduce your calorie intake. This is often counterproductive as with long-term calorie restriction, the body enters starvation mode (1), where your body slows down your metabolism to conserve energy and you experience increased appetite and food cravings. Portion control does not mean eating too little of everything or starving yourself. 

Sometimes, we unconsciously take in more calories than we think. We tend to eat all the food we serve on our plates and even go back for more (3). Increased portion sizes make it easier to overeat, leading to extra calories and weight gain over time (10).

Controlling your portion sizes helps keep your food intake in check. With proper portion control, you can create a calorie deficit successfully and shed off the extra weight, or just eat the right amount to maintain your weight if that is your goal. While it may seem abstract, portion control works and, in the long run, helps you maintain a healthy weight.

The best portion size for weight loss is a satiating amount of food that allows you to create a calorie deficit while providing enough energy and nutrients for your body. For example, if you consume 1,800 calories a day, each portion of the 3 main meals should provide around 600 calories. Below is a detailed portion size guide for weight loss.

Read More: Portion Control Diet Plan Female: 7 Days Of Healthy Eating Made Easy


Estimating portion size

If you have already started recording your intake, then you know how difficult it is to estimate portion size. MyNetDiary created a Portion Guide to aid in the process. Look for the open book icon (see example below) when tracking to access the guide.

Tip: Metric system is available for weight, length and volume measurements. 
             For more help on estimating portion s

For more help on estimating portion size when you cannot measure, check out the Serving Size Card from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. This card displays portion size using familiar objects. Also visit WikiHow’s How to Estimate Portion Size for more helpful visual representations of portion size. See below for a quick summary.

Grain Products 1 cup cereal flakes = 1 fist 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta or potato = 1 tennis ball 1 oz slice of bread = 1 cassette tape 1 oz chips = 1 handful
Vegetables, and Fruit 1 cup of salad greens = 1 baseball 1 medium baked potato = 1 computer mouse 1 medium piece fruit = 1 baseball 1/2 cup fresh fruit = 1 tennis ball 1/4 cup raisins = 1 egg
Dairy and Cheese 11/2 oz cheese = 4 stacked dice 1/2 cup ice cream = 1 tennis ball
Meat and Protein Alternatives 3 oz meat, fish, or poultry = 1 deck of cards 3 oz fish fillet = 1 checkbook 2 tablespoons peanut butter = 1 ping pong ball
Fats 1 teaspoon = 1 dice or tip of a finger 1 tablespoon = 1 poker chip

Tip: We tend to serve ourselves more food when we use larger dishes and less food when we use smaller dishes. If you are trying to lose weight, consider using smaller plates and bowls if you are not able to measure your portion size.

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The portion sizes a restaurant serves you

When you order at a restaurant, the meal you are served is usually more than one serving. In fact, it’s usually enough for two or three people. Over the last 25 years, portion sizes at restaurants have been increasing. We shared more on this topic in our Avoiding Portion Distortion article.

The tools we provide you in the free portion size guide will allow you to maneuver around portion distortion and binge eating. You’ll learn how you can easily measure your portions no matter where you are. Fill out the form below to get your free copy of the Profile Portion Guide. 

Ask us for help

If you need help figuring out how to log a food item, or just have questions about nutrition, weight, or diabetes, post us a question at “Ask a Registered Dietitian” forum in Community. We are available to help you.

Last Updated on Jan 30, 2020

Tracking & MyNetDiary->Tracking Tips Jan 30, 2020