Portion Control In The Palm Of Your Hand

portion control

About six weeks ago it occurred to me that my daughter was getting married in……SIX WEEKS!  I started to panic a little (OK…a LOT!)  Not because I had so much to do, or because my only daughter was “leaving the nest”, but because there would be a photographer at the wedding TAKING PICTURES! :-)

So 6 weeks ago I embarked on a weight loss program that my brother Kevin recommended and I’ve actually lost about 20 pounds!  woo hoo for me. lol. Just two more weeks to go til the wedding….so I’m giving it my all!  I’m drinking so much water I might just float away!

Anyway, to make a long story short…one of the things that I’ve really been trying to focus on is portion control!  I was watching a doctor talk about how important it is on the Rachael Ray show recently so I decided to do a little research and found this super simple way to judge whether the serving size of what you are eating is in line with your diet.

Of course a food scale, measuring cups, and measuring spoons are the most accurate way to measure portions,  but they’re not always practical. This method gives you an easy way to judge a reasonable serving right in the palm of your hand!

The other benefit of the hand method is that it ensures you are eating portions relative to your body size. Since you base your meal size comparatively to the size of your hand, men will more likely be eating a larger portion than that of women (don’t get me started!)

Here’s how it works:

portion control

FIST = 1 Cup

Best for: • Beverages • Cereal • Casseroles • Soups • Fresh fruit • Raw vegetables • Salads


portion control


Best for: • Pasta • Rice • Beans • Potatoes • Cooked vegetables • Pudding • Ice Cream


portion control

2 CUPPED HANDS = 1 ounce

Best for: • Chips • Crackers • Pretzels


portion control

PALM = 3 – 4 ounces

Best for: • Beef • Pork • Poultry • Fish


portion control

THUMB = 1-2 Tablespoons

Best for: • Salad dressing • Sour cream • Cream cheese • Peanut butter • Hard Cheeses


THUMB TIP = 1 Teaspoon

Best for: • Butter • Margarine • Mayonnaise • Oil


I love this idea so much, I decided to make myself a “cheat sheet” for it (in the form of a printable) and decided to share it!




portion control



Now that you know what portions are supposed to look like…here are a few more portion control tips to keep you on the right track.


  • When dining at restaurants known for their jumbo portions, split an entree or take half home for later.
  • Be mindful. Pay attention to how much butter you slather on bread and to the dressing you pour on your salad.
  • Eat off smaller plates and bowls.  A serving of pasta can look pathetic on a 10-inch dinner plate, but appears much more satisfying on an 8-inch one.
  • “Cheat” with vegetables. If you must super-size, do so with salad, broccoli and other low-calorie, nutritious produce.
  • Eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that your stomach has had enough.
  • Practice makes perfect. Measure out a cup of cereal and half cup of milk for a few weeks. Eventually, you will be able to eyeball the correct amount.
Source: Arizona State University


It’s really all about having a visual in your head of everyday portion sizes so that it becomes second nature. Now you have all the ‘tools on hand’ whenever and wherever you eat.


What’s your worst portion control buster?  Mine is potato chips! :-(


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  1. Pam says

    Mine is Mac and Cheese. Historically this is my diet buster! Today is my birthday though, and I have lost 100 lbs this year… and portion control and CHEWING did it for me. If you chew a potato chip or mac n cheese long enough you really don’t want to swallow it… it’s gross starch!

    So, please share your diet!

  2. Lori says

    Ruffles potato chips WITH Dean’s onion dip…..can’t stop eating it!!! Oh,,, and salted pop corn!!

    Favorite thing…and I CAN use portion control on this one…..vanilla ice cream with either Bailey’s Irish Cream or Kahlua on top. Ummmm…Yummm

    Best Wishes for a beautiful wedding….I know it will be wonderful!!! Congratulation!!

  3. Meri says

    I have been on a diet for a few months now and have lost 21.5 pounds so far with calorie counting and, walking, and Zumba. I have another 40 pounds to lose before my wedding in May! Please share the diet you followed please! I need a jump start! Thanks!! PS: love the chart! It’s going up in my kitchen!

  4. says

    Jillee, the best portion size for about 2 thirds of your list is “don’t even look in that direction!” Crackers and pretzels? No matter how little you eat, they are still junk! Try the Paleo diet and you won’t have to worry so much about portion size. I’m not going to deliver a lecture on Paleo eating here – there’s plenty information online. But I’ll also tell you this. The biggest meal of your day (screw the portion size!) should be breakfast! Lunch should be a little lighter and dinner should be very small and light. I know it’s hard for an American to embrace this way of eating and that’s partly why obesity is such a big problem in this country but it’s the only way that makes sense: you have to fill your car with gas before you drive it, not vice versa. I know many people say they are not hungry in the morning but they would be if they didn’t eat a huge dinner the night before. I know it from my own experience, it works.

    In any case, good luck with your weight loss, just don’t overdo it or you’ll have to buy a new dress right before the wedding. ;)

    • says

      Amen. I wouldn’t touch most of the items listed with a 10-foot pole.

      And the tip about watching butter intake? No thanks. I get delicious grassfed butter if I don’t make my own with raw cream, and it is DELICIOUS. I spread it on everything. That, and coconut oil.

      The GOOD, healthy saturated fats help keep you satiated, and full, and tell your body to burn FAT vs. muscle. So many good things.

      You do not need portion control if you eat the right foods.

      However, so many of us are addicted to the MSG and other things food companies put in their food to make it addicting, less satisfying (so we need to keep eating). In that case, unless you have iron willpower, portion control won’t work. You need to detox your body of all those chemicals, and then eat as much real food as possible, THAT way, your weight loss will be real, you will be healthier, etc. etc.

      I know this isn’t a real foodie blog, but this specific post called for some comments about real food vs. the junk food most people eat.

      I do not have any junk food in my house. It takes a bit more time to make meals from scratch.. But I have been suffering from Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue symptoms and hypothyroidism, along with adrenal fatigue. FINALLY was diagnosed earlier this year. No matter what, even on a whole food (real food diet), I have not been able to budge. (I am 5’8″ and 155 lbs, on the higher end of the normal BMI range for me but I would prefer to be 140-145 for my height). But because of that diet, I am not overweight. I take care of my body and now that I am seeing a naturopathic doctor and the weight is just slipping off, even as I am adding MORE full fat raw cream, raw whole milk, grassfed beef, cheese, bacon (tons of bacon!) and pastured eggs. Tons of calories, delicious food, weight loss.

      I feel awesome (I am not 100% yet) but I feel super amazing compared to how I have felt for the past 18 years. Woohoo!

  5. says

    We sort of use the hand method at our house. No matter what, 1/2 to 3/4 of our plat has to be fruit and vegetables and the other portion can be a protein and starch. With that and exercise, my hubby has lost 45 lbs and I have lost 20.

    (And, once a week we have an eat what you want meal.)

    Good job and Happy Wedding!

  6. Annie Sires says

    It’s too bad portion control only makes you hungrier!

    Here’s a bit of logic: If you are hungry – ie. your body needs either fuel (at times) or vitamins/minerals (more likely) and you eat a small amount of something and don’t get what you need, what will then happen?

    Your body will say to you, “You didn’t give me what I need, so can I have it now?” in other words, shortly after eating, you will get hungry again.

    Instead of portion control, a much more effective way to get weight loss is to eat what your body needs: carbs in the form of fresh vegetables and fruit, quality proteins from healthy cattle, pigs, chickens, etc (not from huge feed lots – McDonalds or Burger King or many cheap meats), healthy fats from the same sources, butter (not margarine) olive oils and nut meat oils (unless allergic), eggs.

    Anything created in the last 100 years (all fake vegetable oils and fake sugars) are bad for you, are often rancid before you even see them at the store and don’t break down in your body correctly.

    Drop sugar in ALL it’s forms, including fake sugars.
    Drop simple cheap carbohydrates, in the forms of over processed flours and grains.

    Do this for a month and the weight will fall off and you will be healthier in many other ways.

    Scientific studies proving this ABOUND.

  7. says

    This a great guide, especially when eating out or at a potluck or wedding where there may be a buffet. Thank for sharing!

    I eat dinner off of a smaller plate now, it really does help me eat less.

    My vice is potato. Whether fries, chips or mashed- I can’t say no to extras!

    Ice cream is hard too, but I eat it at home and out of a small mug- same concept as the small plate, looks like more.

  8. Gwyn says

    Way to go Jillee! I have heard the hand measurement idea before but never so detailed. I think it was a Rachel Ray show that I saw a segment on common objects for measurement that included the suggestion to get a take out container and remove half or more of what you are served up front to take home which looked like a great idea too. I’m sure the weight loss feels great and any more will as well, which is always a personal boost but I have to say you look great already judging from the photo’s of the conference beauty show, so whatever else you loose is just gravy. Don’t sweat it you are already set on the “how you look in photo’s” thing. It will be hairy leading up but remember to take a breath as often as possible and enjoy the moment and on the big day let it all go and enjoy the day because at that point what will be will be the stories and memories of the day forever and you don’t want one of those to be regret that you didn’t enjoy every moment. Tough as it may be to do you and Britta just enjoy the day and let someone else sweat the small (and big) stuff. Why do these things never come out on the page the way I hear them in my head… ;-)

  9. says

    Wonderful article and great graphic, Jillee! I’ve heard of the hand method, but have never followed it on a regular basis…but I will now!

    May I share your graphic on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/vegetarianzen) with a link back to your website? I think this, along with all of the other awesome tips on your website, is something that our readers would really appreciate.

    Thanks for producing such thoughtful email newsletters.

    Peace & Veggies,


  10. Trixie F says

    Thanks for the quick reminder, Jillee. Portion control truly is one of the keys to weight loss success and maintenance. However, I wholeheartedly agree with others here about the Paleo and Real Food lifestyles. Dropping processed foods and refined sugars from your diet can do for your body, over time, what essential oils do for quick relief. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. We were designed by the creator to live on what He provided for us. He didn’t create the earth with fields of wheat, corn, etc. He gave us protein and animal fats to eat and he gave us plants to eat and heal ourselves with. It’s a perfect plan; unfortunately the USDA and the FDA don’t get it and still encourage us to eat the same food protocol that farmers use to fatten up their livestock for slaughter. Go figure. Be blessed, Jillee, and congratulations on your weight loss. Hugs!

  11. Mrs B says

    My Husband lost 8 pounds when he was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago by portion control and the Canada Food guide and daily exercise . He went from 12 oz steaks to 4 oz and increasing is veggies, skipping meat once a week. He has kept the weight off for 8 years and is on no medication for his diabetes. One thing we do when going out for meals is ask for a take out box to be brought with the food and remove the food from your plate you are not going to eat at that meal.. If it’s not on your plate you are not tempted to consume too much.

  12. says

    I’m exactly a year older than Jillee, to the day. I have been a life-long dieter, first one at 14! I have been overweight until about 5 years ago. I have lost better than 60 lbs in that time and fairly effortlessly.

    I used two things:
    1. Sugar Busters and kept my sugar carbs to less than 25 grams a day.
    2. I ate more slowly and only until I stopped feeling hungry, NOT until I felt full.

    From just squeezing into a size 18 jeans to an easy slide into a size 10, which turns out to be too short all around, so I buy a 12 and own belts. I’m tall at 5’9″ and I’m broad shouldered and broad hipped…and now have my small waist and nearly flat tummy even though I’ve had six children. This has been quite easily sustainable as well. The more weight I have lost, the more sugar grams I have cut over time, the less garbage ersatz food I have wanted.

    I’m proud of your weight loss Jillee, but I hope you didn’t torture yourself getting there!!

  13. Tabitha says

    My worst offender-the food I find myself eating mindlessly-is fresh bread.

    Congratulations on your recent loss! I know I’m a stranger to you, but I am really proud of you for doing what makes you feel happy and fulfilled as you pursue your goals.

  14. STACEY says

    Pam….First, congratulations on your 100 lb. weight loss !! My downfall is buttered popcorn with parmesan cheese ! Love the hand signals for portion control………..IT ROCKS………I’m posting your chart on my fridge! Also, congratulations on your 20 lb. weight loss and the upcoming wedding. I agree with the earlier statement of JUST BREATHE during the wedding and all will fall into place……….ENJOY………….

  15. CTY says

    The chart is great! I want to see if I can print a wallet-ish size one and laminate it.
    My biggest diet troubles are the “empty” calories.
    I found that the http://www.choosemyplate.gov (the super tracker part) has a free electronic way to track calories, food groups, exercise and more. It even tracks an allowable amount for empty calories. It can be customized for specific vitamins, minerals & nutrients. It gives recommendations based on the goals you set. There is even a way to add family specialty recipes for calculating. It is from the US gov. but the internet knows no boundaries.
    One thing I have learned from it is that I do not get enough protein/dairy. I also having it tracking my iron because I am anemic.
    Parents can track the whole family too.

    When I use it, I succeed.

  16. kirnex says

    This is a great guide, and thanks for sharing it! Also, congrats on your weight loss!

    As a 41-year-old mother of three, I’ve also been trying to lose about 40 lbs put on in the last three years due to 1) development of a still-uncontrolled hypothyroid issue, 2) being put on estrogen therapy, since hypothyroid causes hormone depletion (estrogen actually inhibits the efficacy of thyroid medication–something my doctor neglected to tell me) and 3) being placed on Prozac to help mitigate the hypothyroid-induced depression issues I was having. This is despite having a heart condition (caused by being placed on the WRONG thyroid meds), which precludes me from aerobic exercise.

    I’ve tried pretty much every diet and supplement known to man. Then I discovered a book, two months ago, that I want to share with everyone. I have ZERO affiliation with the author, publisher, etc.–but I really have to recommend it because it’s the very first thing I found that worked for me. It’s not a diet. It’s a way of dealing with a maladaptive relationship with food (something I’ve had my whole life).

    The book is “Naturally Thin” by Bethenny Frankel. With it, I’ve been able to lose 20 lbs. in one month, and that’s despite still eating all my favorite stuff–like steak and chocolate and ice cream, etc. I honestly never thought it possible. But it has revolutionized the way I look at eating. In particular, her “law of diminishing returns” has been a godsend to me.

    I have bought this book for everyone I love who could afford to lose some weight. It probably won’t work for everyone–you really need to learn to eat with AWARENESS. Otherwise, it won’t do anything for you. But, like I said, it’s not a diet. She doesn’t tell you what you can and can’t eat or anything like that. It’s designed to help reprogram the way we look at what we eat. It’s been fabulous for me.

    Anyhow, like I said: no affiliation with the author etc, I just wanted to let people know, because I know I’m not the only one who has been struggling to lose weight and has wasted tons of money on every “trick” in the book. This one seemed almost too good to be true, but each day I’ve stepped on the scale and seen the number fall, I have to sing its praises, and share it with anyone I can.

    Congrats to your daughter for her impending nuptials. :)

    • says

      Hi Andrea! You definitely could also use two cupped hands to measure one cup, but I put a caption under that picture that says “Best For: Chips • Crackers • Pretzels” meaning that two cupped hands of one of those things will be close to an oz.

  17. Kathy says

    Sort of off topic-had to say THANKS for your English Muffin Bread recipe! On topic-just ate a “cupped palm” slice. This is the third time I have made this bread. Cannot tell you how much we love this bread!

  18. Krist E says

    Portion Control Buster? Hmmm, let’s see…a…FOOD!!! haha, I like so many different things it’s hard to pick just one and it’s not always the same, I have stages, or episodes! :) Congratulations on your weight loss! That’s great! I have lost a little over 80 so far and am determined to make it ALL the way to my goal this time so I know that is a great accomplishment. Thanks so much for the guide. I was so glad to see you made a pdf to print I had just been thinking…I would like to have this printed to put on the side of the fridge where I keep my other info. and now I will! Thanks Jillee you’re the greatest! Keep it up!

  19. Kelly says

    I’m so happy you’re being proactive in watching what you eat, Jillee. No matter what people say here about different diets, the point is that you’re having success and you’re being mindful of what goes in your mouth. Good for you!

    As for your daughter’s wedding, you’ll be beautiful no matter what your dress size is. My mom was 120 lbs overweight at my wedding, but I didn’t care. She has since lost the weight, but I still look at those pictures and all I see is how pretty she was. She had her hair and makeup done professionally, and her joy and happiness came through in every shot. Do what you can now, and on the big day, enjoy yourself. That’s what you’ll remember.

  20. Charpps says

    Now I see where I have gone wrong in my diets, it is supposed to be a “tightly” clenched fist. On my way to success now!! Thanks Jillee! I have been lurking for months, love your blog.

  21. Joyce says

    Thanks for your post Jillee and congratulations on your weight loss !
    I just wanted to share that I’ve found a good way to quit drinking sodas, which I thought I’d never be able to do. Sparkling mineral water. I drink it all the time now and the fizziness takes care of my soda craving. I used to dislike mineral water, but for some reason now I like it. I’m struggling to diet and not having any luck. No self discipline so still looking for the right thing to jump start me.
    Congrats to all those commenters who have lost weight !

  22. julietta says

    Forgive me, but I cannot understand why you have to lose weight BECAUSE YOUR DAUGHTER IS GETTING MARRIED!

    IF you want to lose weight, it should be for your own sake -or for your own helth; not för any other reason

    Yuo seem to me so wise, I must say I´m a bit disappointed that you not can be yourself.

    • teresa says

      Julietta, did you STOP to think how a comment like than can discourage and hurt someone? Did you think that maybe Jillee had been thinking about loosing weight for sometime and maybe her Daughters wedding was just the thing she needed to get started.

  23. Jan says

    Congratulatins! Please share your weight loss secrets. Did you know you can actually drink too much water? My girlfriend got really ill from trying to drink too much water, and it has been known that too much for your system can be fatal even!

    Thanks for everything you share, it’s always informative and interesting.

  24. Bonita says

    Hi Jillee, thanks for the info. on portion control. I have been skinny most of my life until menopause turned me and my weight around. I started exercising and running a couple of weeks ago. I also started kinda watching what and how often I eat. I have been reducing the amount of meals I eat, usually skipping breakfast and lunch sometimes then overeating at dinner time. Portion control makes more sense. Thanks again!! Oh, McDonalds Mocha Frappe is my portion control buster only in the past, not in my future! :)

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