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Estimating Portion Sizes With Your Hand: How Much is Enough?

Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Sep 22, 2022

Estimating Portion Sizes With Your Hand: How Much is Enough?

For the body to function properly, it needs nutrients; nutrients that we get from food. Our body digests and converts food into energy for growth and repair. This is the reason why it is very important to watch what you eat. However, knowing how much to eat is as important as knowing what to eat. There are a couple of ways to identify how much you should put on your plate. Here is a simple technique you can do for estimating portion sizes with your hand.

Estimating food portions with your hands: How to do it

There are different ways to determine how many calories you have in your meal. Calorie counting is the most popular method a lot of people are using nowadays. Other ways you can portion your food are by weighing the food you eat (weighing scale) or by using measuring cups and spoons.

If you want your weight loss journey to be successful, estimating portion sizes with your hand will be the best and most sustainable method for you. It is easy to remember and practical for everyday use.

Here, you refer to different parts of your hand to help measure portion size. Whether you are eating at home or dining out, this becomes an easing guide to more mindful eating.

Estimating portion sizes with your hand: Fruits and vegetables

  • 1 fist – 1 cup or 250 ml of leafy vegetables or 1 whole fruit
  • ½ fist – ½ cup or 125 ml of fresh, canned, or frozen vegetables or fruits
  • A cupped hand – ¼ cup or 60 ml of dried fruits, seeds, and nuts
  • Estimating portion sizes with your hand: Grains

    • Size of hand – 1 slice of bread
    • ½ fist – ½ cup or 125 ml of rice or pasta
    • 1 first – 30 g of cereal
    • Estimating portion sizes with your hand: Juice and milk products

      • ½ fist –  ½ cup or 125 ml of fruit juice
      • 1 fist – 1 cup or 250 ml of regular milk or soy milk
      • 1 fist – ¾ cup or 175 ml of yogurt
      • 2 thumbs – 1 ½ oz or 50 g of cheese

      Estimating portion sizes with your hand: Meat and Fish

      • Palm – 2 ½ oz or 75 g of meat, poultry, or fish

      Estimating portion sizes with your hand: Others

      • 1 thumb – 1 tablespoon
      • 1 thumb tip – ½ teaspoon

      The accuracy of the measurements will depend on the size of your hand. If you have free time, you can compare your hand estimates to your measuring devices at home, so you can adjust your portions.

      Other Tips for Eating Less

      When starting a diet, the first step is to change your snacking habits. To achieve your weight goal and a healthier eating lifestyle, you need to make sure that you are not overeating and that you are consuming the right kind of calories that your body needs.

      Mindful eating

      Savor your food by chewing slowly, appreciating the color, smell, and texture of your food. Steering away from distractions while eating can help condition your mind and body to eat less.

      Eat using a smaller plate

      The Delboeuf illusion is a visual trick where you have equal portions of food that you place in two different container sizes, one being smaller than the other. When you put the portion of food on a smaller plate, it would trick your brain into thinking that you just have enough food to consume. However, when you place the same amount of food on a larger plate, your brain would think that you need to get more food since the portion looks smaller. A lot of people use this trick to help them stay committed to dieting.

      However, in other cases, this may also lead to overeating. Researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have found that when people are hungry, especially when they are on a strict diet, they are more likely to notice the portions of the meal no matter what the plate-size is. These findings may result in people realizing that they are eating less, which makes them overeat later.

      Eating on a smaller plate may be more effective on people who strictly follow food portions. If you think that this will not work for you, perhaps estimating portion sizes with your hand is better.

      Change the color of your plate

      The color of your plate might be the reason why you overeat. Using bright colored plates such as blues and greens can help suppress your appetite.

      However, based on a controlled study, it was found that black and red colored plates did not affect the appetite of their subjects. The result of the study suggests that the color of the plate may affect someone’s appetite based on different factors, such as the food type and the contrast between the food and the colors of the plate. Still, trying out this technique may be beneficial.

      Take your time 

      It takes about 20 minutes before your brain sends signals of fullness. That is why it is helpful if you take your time when eating so your brain can have time to process how full you are. If you are a fast eater, this may mean that you consume more than what your body needs.

      estimating portion sizes with your hand

      Limit snacking

      There are several times in a day when you may crave for a snack, and this will make you grab something unhealthy. To avoid overeating and to better manage these cravings, try chewing some gum or drink water instead of munching on chips and other unhealthy food. If you feel hungry, even when you just ate, then that may mean that you are just bored.

      Eating more fiber during regular meal times may also help you feel full for a longer time. Fiber not only cleans your digestive system, but also provides bulk.

      If you are still hungry, to reduce the chances of you reaching for junk food, have ready fruit, nuts, and cut up veggies like healthy carrots in the kitchen.

      Smaller meals and snacks

      Portioning your meal means serving yourself the amount of food you choose to eat at a time, whether you are at home, in a restaurant, or eating out of a package. If you prefer, you can stave off hunger by eating smaller – but healthy! – meals throughout the day. But make sure that you do not overdo it with the calories.

      Key takeaway

      You should always remember that not only should we watch what we eat, but we should also watch how much we eat. And estimating portion sizes with your hand is an easy and useful technique to help navigate the pitfalls of dieting.

      Learn more about Diet and Weight Loss here.


      Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

      Expertly reviewed by

      Chris Icamen

      Dietetics and Nutrition

      Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Sep 22, 2022

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