Let’s face it. Portion sizes have gotten out of control. It’s nearly impossible to know exactly how much to eat if you’re trying to manage weight. We’ve been told by food chains that we need everything “triple-sized”, and we’ve forgotten how to eat normally. So, what’s the best way to know how much to eat?
The common answer is: count calories. And that’s wrong. Unless you’re a physique competitor, this is completely unnecessary and a truly awful approach. Counting calories is tedious and frustrating. In addition, the calorie numbers on menus and food labels that people rely on are actually very inaccurate.
Most estimates are that the calorie numbers that are listed are anywhere between 15-25% off. That makes a huge difference if you’re trying to balance your calories with any kind of precision! While it can be helpful, it’s not about the calorie count – it’s about being MINDFUL of what you’re eating. Which means eating less and making better food choices naturally.
Fortunately, there’s an easier way measure your portions, and it’s right in front of you: YOUR HAND!
For each meal, use your hand to measure how much you should eat. This method is simple, and it actually works because it goes with you everywhere, and is already adjusted for your body size.
Protein: the size of your palm
Veggies: the size of your closed fist
Healthy fat (nuts, seeds, nut butter, olive oil etc): the size of your thumb
Carbs (potatoes, rice, quinoa, beans): should be able to fit into your cupped hand
Keep in mind this only a baseline to start. So once you get the hang of measuring food, then find a progress indicator to measure how it’s working for you. If you’re trying to lose fat, then have that measured somehow on a routine basis. If your numbers are going down, then you’re on the right track. If your numbers start going in the wrong direction, then scale back somewhere a bit. Usually a good idea to scale back the carb dense foods first. Unless you’re very physically active.
Now you might be wondering where things like dessert fit into this. Sweets and indulgences are what I consider a 10-25% food. Because if you’re trying to manage your physique, then the occasional indulgence should be kept to around 10-25% of your total diet. Depending on how lean you are and how lean you’re trying to get, you can probably have these high calorie foods less than 25% of the time and still keep on track. But the leaner you are the less leeway you have with these types of foods if you’re trying to get even leaner.
Above I’ve attached a visual guide from Precision Nutrition that you can print out and put up on your fridge to make trying this habit a bit easier.3