Portion Control – It’s In Your HANDS!

Now listen up, everybody! Portion control is in your HANDS! They’re not exactly like a scale or measuring cups and spoons, but they are good enough for estimating portions when you’re out and about or you’re someone who just likes to make eating the right portions easier.

Now don’t roll your eyes at me.  I know what you’re thinking – people come in different sizes.  True, but the size of your body is likely proportional to your hands.  You don’t expect that 60 year-old, 5 foot, 105 Lb Bonnie and 25 year-old, 6 foot, 200 Lb Billy need the same amount of food and number of calories, do you?  Of course not!

This makes the hand an even better tool when trying to set simple practical rules about the number of portions people need from each food group no matter their size, age, sex and activity level.  This way Billy won’t end up with itty-bitty meals that will leave him hungry and tempt him to cheat and Bonnie won’t get overstuffed.

Think about it like this, a fist is about a cup, a palm is about a 3 to 4- oz portion, a thumb is about a table spoon,  a tip of a thumb is about a teaspoon.  Like “The Three Bears” story, all are fit for your size like papa bear’s, mama bear’s and baby bear’s bowls.

There are three parts to foods: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.


When you have diabetes you need to pay attention to carbohydrates because they turn into sugar inside your body.  And don’t make the mistake of not eating carbohydrates.  The sugar turns into fuel for your body and brain.  Also lots of these foods are chock full of nutrients.  Carbohydrates include starches (grains, beans)/starchy vegetables (peas, corn, potatoes), fruits and milk/yogurt.  You need 5-7 fists of those carbohydrates every day.  Spread them over 3 to 6 meals and to have plenty of fiber rich foods like whole grains, beans, peas, corn, potato with skin and fruits.

                                                               Bread                                       Beans                                      Peas/Corn


Light yogurt                                       Milk                                       Apple

Sweets are concentrated carbohydrates.  Incorporate itty-bitty treats like ½ a fist pudding or 1 fun sized candy bar about 2 to 3 times a week.

Proteins and Fats

Proteins and fats don’t turn into sugar, but don’t get too excited.  You still have to go easy on them because you don’t want to overwork your kidneys or clog up your blood vessels. Not to mention, they still contain calories.

Use the palm of your hand to estimate your protein portions.  Two to three portions a day is all you need.

Protein foods include

  • Red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts, and tofu                                                                         

Fatty foods include things like butter, oil, lard, margarine, salad dressing, bacon, nuts and their butters, sour cream and marbled meats.

The better fats include

  • Canola oil
  • Olive oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Tub margarine
  • Nuts and their butters.  Yes, nuts are both fats and protein.

Use your thumb to estimate your portions.  Use the tip of the thumb for thick foods or foods that are all fat like oil and the whole thumb for more liquidy foods or less concentrated in fat.  Three to four portions a day is all you need.


Peanut butter and tub margarine                                                Salad dressing

Bargain Foods

Non-starchy vegetables are great belly fillers that have few calories, but lots of the good stuff like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals.  So, indulge and enjoy.


Mixed Vegetables                                     Salad

Nonstarchy vegetables include all vegetables other than potatoes, peas, corn and sweet potatoes.


Stay away from sugary drinks because they turn into sugar inside your body very quickly. And they contain high amounts of calories.  It doesn’t matter if these drinks are naturally sweet like fruit juice or have some kind of sugar added to them like regular soda pop.

You can have unsweetened coffee and tea, and any drink sweetened with an artificial sweetener.  Artificial sweeteners are not an all-you-can-have deal.  A few cups of diet drinks are ok, but not a few liters.  So, don’t you use them like they’re going out of style.

Don’t forget that water is the best drink in the whole wide world.  Get plenty of it.

So next time your are thinking about your portions – remember – it’s in your hands!

By Abir Wood, RD

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