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What’s a normal serving size?

What's a normal serving size?

We had a great time recently shooting the photos for our bumper ‘serving size guide’ in the April 2013 issue of Healthy Food Guide magazine.

As I weighed and measured the serving sizes of the various foods (there are over 50 of them) our stylist Sarah Swain used everyday objects to help give the serving sizes some physical context. Often, she used her hand for this. What’s great about that is that a hand is something we all own, and it’s usually just the right size for us. Using your hands as a guide to portion size can really help.

  • Use the palm of your hand (excluding fingers) and the thickness of your hand to determine the portion of meat on your dinner plate.
  • A clenched fist is the size of the carbohydrate on your dinner plate.
  • Two cupped hands should be the amount of vegetables or salad on your dinner plate.

Everyone – from a small child to a burly bloke – can look at their hands and know how big their portion sizes should be.

This is especially important in today’s world, where ‘oversized’ portions in restaurants, cafés and in manufactured foods, have become ‘normal’ to our eyes. Unfortunately, research has shown that the larger the portion, the more we tend to eat. Here are some tips to help recalibrate your portion sizes.

At home

  • Switch to a smaller plate – you’ll eat less but if the plate is full you’ll still feel satisfied.
  • Put the vegetables or salad on your plate first – it will automatically make you cut down your meat or carb servings.
  • Put leftovers away as you serve the rest of the meal – ‘serve’ them into a separate container and put in the fridge. You’ll be less tempted to go back for seconds.

Buying takeaways

  • Choose meals with lots of vegetables or salads – Chinese or kebabs are often good choices.
  • Buy prepackaged food such as sushi – it’s low-fat and is portion-controlled by the number of pieces in the pack. Grab a serve of edamame on the side to get some veges in.
  • Ask for extra salad in a burger, wrap or sub.
  • Get a salad on the side with everything!

Eating out

  • If the vegetables in your meal are little more than a garnish, ask for extra on the side.
  • Ask for a baked potato or steamed rice instead of chips or wedges.
  • Ask the wait staff about the size of the meat portions available – the chef will know this if the waiter doesn’t. Around 120-150g of meat is a healthy serving size so if it’s much larger, ask for a smaller portion.
  • Consider sharing a dessert – often a small taste of something decadent is all you need at the end of a meal.
First published: Mar 2013

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