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How Do I Know What an Appropriate Portion Size Is?

As a dietitian I do a lot of talking about portion size and how important it is to limit them. But let's be real. How often do you really measure out your food and snacks? I don't even do that, I just kind of eyeball it. But I also have a pretty good idea of what's what since I've been at this a while. That does take some practice, so it is helpful to know how to approximate portion sizes using some everyday objects including our hands.

Here is a portion size guide adapted from a great parent resource called A PARENT’S GUIDE TO HEALTHY EATING AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY by the Healthy Children Healthy Futures Child Health Initiative:

• 1 cup = your fist or cupped hand (keep in mind Shaquille O'Neal's hand is probably 2 or 3 or 4 cups, so we're talking an average sized person's hand)
• 1 ounce of cheese = your thumb or a pair of dice
• 1 teaspoon = your thumb tip (again Shaq's is probably a tablespoon or 2, and a baby's is probably 1/4 teaspoon)
• 1-2 ounces snack food = a handful (unless you have a largish hand, than it's 1/2 a handful)
• 3 ounces of meat= deck of cards, cassette tape (remember those), your palm (same rules apply)
• 2 ounces dry spaghetti = a quarter
• ½ cup cooked brown rice or pasta or mashed potatoes = ½ baseball or an ice cream scoop
• 2 tablespoons peanut butter = a ping pong ball
• 1 ounce peanuts = 1 ½ golf balls

If you've got some other good 'rules of thumb' to help judge portion sizes or common household measurements send then along.
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.