Decorative plate showing brown rice, broccoli, steak, cheese slices, sketch of hand mapping size of steak, drawing of thumb proportion size of cheese, baseball showing portion size of grains.

How to Portion Control

In a world where “bigger is better” reigns, even food portions have been affected. Not only do we want to get more for our money, we want our food to actually be bigger. Single patties are no longer enough on a burger. Double and triple-deckers topped with all the extras have become the usual.

Portion control with diabetes

So how do you make the right choices when you are monitoring portion size for weight loss, weight maintenance, and the diabetic diet? It sure can be tricky, but here are a few simple steps that may help.

Use your hand

Your hand can be a great guide for what a serving or portion is for a lot of different foods. For example, one ounce of cheese should be about the size and thickness of your thumb. When at home or even at a restaurant, taking a quick glance at these physical examples will help you to know what you should eat and what you could save for later! Here are a few more common examples:

  • a 3 oz serving of protein such as a chicken breast or steak should be about the size and thickness of the palm of your hand
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter should be the size of a golf ball
  • ½ cup of cooked rice or noodles should be the size of your fist
  • ½ cup of cooked starchy vegetables such as peas or corn should be the size of half of a baseball
  • 1 cup of leafy green salad should be the size of one baseball

Read the labels

Hopefully, you are an expert on nutrition fact label reading. If not, now is a great time to start practicing! Grab your nearest package and take a look at the label. One of the most important things to take note of with any food, is the serving size. It is often the same for one kind of food. For example, bread is usually done per slice. But sometimes it can differ greatly. Cereal can range anywhere from 1/3 cup to 1 cup and knowing the serving size can help you better decide what products to purchase and how much of them to eat. That serving size then contains all of the other nutrients listed below. This is important information for carbohydrate counting purposes!

Plan and set your portion

When possible, putting your portion on a plate or in a container can make it easier to stick to the recommended portion size, rather than eating out of the box. When we eat straight from the package, we are less likely to know how much we are eating and therefore more likely to overdo it. Using the plate method can also be very helpful when portioning out your meals. The goal is to have half of the plate covered with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter for starches, and the last quarter for protein. Using this loose guide can help you to better estimate when you are eating out or at a family function or buffet style venue.

Following these tips may lead to better blood glucose levels, and even weight maintenance or weight loss. If you have specific questions about your portion sizes, be sure to reach out to your physician, Registered Dietitian, or Certified Diabetes Educator!

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