Food & Nutrition

How to pick the right portion sizes

Get the basics on how to measure and estimate portions with this handy guide.

The portion size that’s right for you depends on what you’re eating and how much you need to feel satisfied while staying within your SmartPoints® Budget. Using tools like measuring cups and food scales makes it easy to dole out right-for-you portions when you’re at home. But toting those tools around when you’re out to dinner or at a party? That isn't going to cut it.

Luckily, no matter where you are, you've got a great portion estimator at hand—literally. Use this guide the next time you need to track a portion. 
 

How to use your hands as a portion guide

 

  • Your fist is about the same size as one cup of fruit or pasta.
  • Your thumb (tip to base) is the size of one ounce of meat or cheese.
  • Your palm (minus fingers) equals three ounces of meat, fish, or poultry.
  • Your cupped hand equals one to two ounces of nuts or pretzels.
Of course, not all hands are the same size, so it wouldn't hurt to measure yours against some measuring spoons or cups, just so you know what you're working with.
RELATED: Shop kitchenware
 

Fruit portion guide


Although most fruit is a ZeroPoint food and they provide a lot of health benefits, they aren't calorie-free. So, what should you aim for? The general rule is two servings of fruit a day.
 

What does a serving of fruit look like? 

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange, or pear
  • 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits, or plums
  • 1 cup fresh fruit salad
     

What about fruits that have SmartPoints?

Some fruit is more energy-dense (meaning, higher in calories) and easier to overeat than others. They're still nutritious, but you'll want to track them. 

  • Avocado: 1/4 medium
  • Coconut: 1/4 cup
  • Dried fruit: 1/4 cup
     

Vegetables


Most vegetables are ZeroPoint foods—they’re a great way to bulk out your meals and help you feel fuller, longer. The USDA recommends 1 to 3 servings a day. A serving is about: 

  • Cooked non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, or carrots: 1 cup
  • Leafy or raw vegetables: 2 cupts
  • Potatoes or other starchy vegetables, like corn: 1 medium (or 1 cup mashed) 
     

And what about vegetables that have SmartPoints?

You'll want to take that into consideration when it comes to tracking. 

Unsure if a veggie has SmartPoints or not? We've got you.  

ZeroPoint list: Green

ZeroPoint list: Blue

ZeroPoint list: Purple


Meat 


A serving of meat should take up about a quarter of your plate. Still unsure? 

  • Red meat: Aim for a portion about the size of your palm
  • Poultry: Go for the size of a computer mouse
  • Pork: A deck of cards

 

Carbs 


At least half the grains you eat in a day should be whole grain, according to the USDA

*Unless you're on Purple and eating whole grains or whole-wheat pasta, you'll want to track the SmartPoints. 

  • Rice: 1/2 cup, cooked 
  • Pasta: 1/2 cup, cooked
  • Bread: 1 slice
  • Cereal: 1 cup

RELATED: The myWW guide to carbs on Purple
 

10 tips for measuring and portioning

 
The best way to learn that amount is to do some measuring. Over time, you’ll train your brain to serve up the right amount automatically. This week try weighing and measuring the foods you eat frequently, using these steps:
 
1. Serve yourself
 
What’s your typical portion? Whatever it is, dish it out. Put the amount of pasta you would usually eat into your usual bowl or plate. Then... 

 

2. Size it up
 
Measure or weigh that portion, using cups or a scale. Now you know how much you’re actually eating.
 
3. Track it
 
Use your WW app to find the SmartPoints value. (Hint: The barcode scanner on the top right corner of the My Day screen is great for finding packaged foods.) How does this impact your Budget?
 
4. Decide what works
 
Does this portion work well with your Budget? Remember that you can bulk up any meal or snack with your ZeroPoint™ foods. By using a little less pasta and adding lots of sautéed veggies instead you can enjoy a delicious dinner that’s lower in SmartPoints.
 
5. Keep measuring cups and spoons handy in the kitchen
 
Measuring spoons are especially good for measuring out oil, salad dressing, and sugar. 
 

6. Whether you're using a tablespoon or cup, it should be leveled off

The best-measuring spoons and cups are ones that can be squared off for easy leveling.
 

7. Take your portion and then move away

You can always go back for seconds if you're still hungry. 


8. Eat on smaller plates

Or bring your lunch in a bento box. (Stylish!) 


9. Go for built-in portion control

Buy individual servings of items. It may cost you a bit more, but consider it a health savings.


10. Don't match your food to your plate
 
Researchers at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab found that people serve themselves 30% more food when the plate they’re using offers low contrast with the food in question—for example, serving white rice on a white plate. Try to choose plates that have a contrasting color to the food you’re serving.
 
Want more tips? Search #portioncontrol on Connect. (3,607 posts and counting!)