How much we eat can be as important as what we eat. But when it comes to portion sizes, it can feel like the world is working against us. Restaurant servings for one can be enough for a family to share. Luckily, you can retrain your eyes―and your stomach―to recognize what “enough” looks and feels like.

Size matters The bigger the plate, the more you’ll want to fill it. The optimum size is a nine-inch plate. Measure your plates and see if they’re nine inches across. If they’re too big, try using any smaller plates you have, or simply fill your regular plates to the nine-inch mark.Portion sizes graphic. 50% non-starchy veggies, 25% proteins, 25% carbs.

Balance your plate A balanced plate has three types of food on it: non-starchy veggies, lean proteins and carbs. It may also include a little healthy fat. Make healthy choices from each category.

Non-starchy veggies Fill half of your plate with vegetables like spinach, carrots, bok choy, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, collard greens and more. Skip the butter and excess cheese for heart health. A simple sauté in olive oil or steaming keeps them in top shape nutritionally. Go back for seconds to get full on these lower-calorie, fiber-rich foods.

Proteins Fill a quarter of your plate with lean proteins like fish, eggs, skinless poultry, reduced-fat cheese, tofu, lean meat and beans (legumes). A protein portion should be as big as your palm, which is four ounces for most people.

Carbohydrates The last quarter of your plate should contain foods filled with carbohydrates. These will fill you up and fuel your active lifestyle. This could include whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and bread and oats. You can also choose starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, peas, corn and winter squash. Fruit is considered a source of carbohydrates, so consider apples, pears or berries. Remember, monitor portion sizes of all carbohydrate-rich foods if you’re sensitive to sugar or have diabetes.

Healthy fats Add just a bit of healthy fats in the form of nuts, extra-virgin olive oil or avocado for extra flavor. It helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins from the colorful foods on your plate.

Produce and protein snacks Snacking between meals can make you less hungry during the day. This may keep you from eating too much at meals. The best time for a snack is when you feel hungry, not when you’re bored or stressed. The best snacks contain both fiber and protein. Consider celery and peanut butter or red bell pepper slices and a piece of cheese.Graphic showing portion control using your hands. Measurements are: Flat hand for non-starch veggies, palm of hand for lean proteins, fist for carbs, tip of thumb for healthy fats and two flat hands for total food per meal.

Perfect portion sizes, anytime Measuring food is the best way to know how much you’re really eating. When you’re away from your kitchen or don’t have a food scale or measuring cups, use your hands. A clenched fist is about one cup, which is the portion size of your carbohydrates (rice, pasta, etc.). A protein portion should be as big as your palm—four ounces for most people. And yes, if you have large hands, your portions can be larger. That’s because your base calorie needs for the day are higher.1

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Now that we know how much to eat, here’s a way to figure out how to avoid eating when you’re stressed.

Published January 10, 2024


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