One of the habits of the healthy eater is to keep portion sizes in check. Many don’t have the time or patience to count calories and weigh their food, and find that this simple portion size guide is the best way to calculate proper portion sizes for weight loss.
(The following guidelines are suggested for normal, healthy individuals who are either trying to lose or maintain weight, and are exercising regularly.)
Most people get too little protein in their diets. Increasing protein intake can stimulate your metabolism, improve exercise recovery and muscle mass, and reduce body fat .
One serving of protein = the size and thickness of one palm of your hand for a woman, and 2 palms for a man. This equals about 20-30g for women and 40-60g for men, 3-5x per day. Here are some examples of protein sources:
- chicken, beef, turkey, bison, or other lean meats
- tuna, salmon, shrimp, crab or other wild-caught fish/shellfish
- Eggs (have only 6-7g of protein each, so best to add to a smaller portion of meat or other protein source)
- greek yogurt
- supplements such as whey protein
Vegetables can be eaten pretty much without restriction. Load them on your plate and fill up on them before you move onto the other foods. Full of phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, they are essential to your overall health, fight illnesses like cancer, and keep your bones strong and your muscles from deteriorating over time .
One serving of veggies = enough to fill your two hands cupped together. Eat 1-2 servings of veggies with each meal, 3-6x a day. Basically every single time you eat, add a veggie. Here are some examples of vegetables:
- spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, cabbage
- broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts
- bell peppers
- summer and winter squash
- celery, cucumber
Like vegetables, fruits also contain micronutrients and fiber. Unlike vegetables, fruit is higher in sugar and calories, so you will have to be mindful of your total calorie intake for the day.
One serving of fruit = a medium sized piece. Eat fruit 2-3x per day. Here are some examples:
- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
- peaches, plums, apricots
- oranges, grapefruit, tangerines
Fat got such a bad rap in the last few decades. The truth is that a balance of saturated (yes! saturated!) and unsaturated fats are essential for good health. The right balance of fats keeps your body inflammation in check, gives you energy for your brain and the rest of your body, and transports the vitamins and minerals you eat throughout your system .
One serving of fat = 2 thumbs put together, or 2 tablespoons. Have 1 serving 2-3x per day. Eat a mix of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats for optimum nutrition. Here are examples of each:
- animal fat such as eggs, dairy, meat, butter, cheese
- coconut and palm oil
- nuts such as almonds, cashews, pistachios, macadamias, pecans
- pumpkin seeds
- olives, olive oil
- fish oil, canola oil, flax oil
- sunflower seeds, flax seed
- peanuts, walnuts
Whole grains are healthy because they are high in fiber and nutrients. Try to always ingest whole grains with a protein or fat to slow down the digestion and keep insulin levels steady. If your goal is fat loss, eat these in the morning or after your workout when insulin sensitivity is prime.
One serving = size of fist. Eat one or two servings per day. Here are samples of whole grains:
- rice, preferably brown or wild
- whole grain bread or pasta
- cracked wheat
Put It All Together to Create Healthy Meals
So now that you know healthy portion sizes and how often you should be eating them, you can plan your meals accordingly. Each meal will have a serving of protein and a veggie or two. Add in fruit and fat 2-3x a day, and the optional whole grain – choosing from the foods listed above or others you find. You now have the blueprint for a healthy meal plan! Enjoy.