How big is one portion of food?

How big is one portion of food?

It is becoming clear that many of us have lost sight of the size of a reasonable portion of food. This goes a long way to explaining the rising obesity rates, and the recent panic at the idea of eating more vegetables and fruit.

Research for the British Heart Foundation found that many ‘single-serve’ portion sizes have increased hugely in the last twenty years. As a result many of us are eating too much, as well as serving up too much at home.

So what are the correct portion sizes for adults?

For fruit: a portion is medium-sized piece, such as a banana or apple. It can also be an equivalent amount of smaller fruits such as grapes or satsumas. Go very easy on dried fruit – each of those dried apples is still a whole apple! Only one serving a day should be juice or a smoothie. Steer clear of commercial smoothies which are very high in sugar.

For vegetables: a portion is about three heaped tablespoons of the vegetable. It does not matter too much whether the vegetable is frozen, tinned or fresh. Note that potatoes count as carbohydrate - so sadly that means that chips are not vegetables!

For grains: a handful of dry pasta or rice is plenty. This guideline also works for a child, measure the food with their hand.

For meat: a piece about the size of a pack of cards is the right size.

As for that five or seven a day: a healthy stir-fry with three or four vegetables will get you to most of your target in just one meal.  Add a banana for breakfast, a mid-morning apple and some salad with lunch and the job is done. Bon appetit!

Comments

Clare R.
25 April 2014

Clare R.

that's right; 40% complex carbs. As found in vegetables as well as starchy foods. Trouble is that all too many think that carbs = cake!

James B.
25 April 2014

James B.

Olga - having dabbled in Paleo, I was wondering the same thing about portion sizes for protein. These guidelines are brought out by the government, which is still telling us that the bulk of our diet should be made up of carbs...

Callum M.
25 April 2014

Callum M.

I think it's important to focus more on the types of food you're eating, rather than get too hooked on portion sizes. Let's be honest, a plateful of veg and salad is not going to hurt you.

Olga N.
24 April 2014

Olga N.

That size of protein portion is totally off kilter if you're doing the paleo diet or similar - you'd never be full! It is really hard to measure sometimes but I think as long as you're eating until your body (not your mind) tells you your full you should be OK.

Tom D.
24 April 2014

Tom D.

So, on this basis how many portions of vegetables is a single fresh carrot? The tablespoon idea is quite confusing but I'm pretty sure I have more than a portion each meal on this basis.

Mike D.
24 April 2014

Mike D.

My portions get bigger when I exercise - because I'h hungry! But as long as the food is nutritious, as you're not overweight, I don't see a problem with large portions.

Olivia C.
24 April 2014

Olivia C.

The meat portions seem small - I've obviously been overdoing the protein!!

Pete R.
24 April 2014

Pete R.

I tend to follow the handful of rice rule, but when it comes to fruit and veg, surely the more there is the better?

Bradley C.
23 April 2014

Bradley C.

Well I'm glad I've got big hands...

Tanith A.
23 April 2014

Tanith A.

I think most people over-estimate portion sizes for meat and carbs and under-estimate for fruit and veg. I agree with Craig - you can't go wrong adding masses of veg to everything. And sticking to the "one portion = one handful" works well for everything else.

craig t.
22 April 2014

craig t.

The more portions of fruit and veg the better if we're going to get our 10 a day. Personally, I have don't measure portions of veg - just add masses. You can't have too much veg!!

Mary C.
22 April 2014

Mary C.

I'm surprised, too. It's good to get a baseline. And so important to educate our children, too, who see double whoppers as a completely normal portion size...

Derek B.
22 April 2014

Derek B.

Wow, that's a bit of an eye-opener. Those portion sizes seem tiny to me!

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