Prevent Portion Distortion with the Hand Analogy

Over the past several decades, portion sizes in the United States keep getting bigger and bigger. Its odd though, because the actual size of our stomachs hasn’t changed. When you’re planning meals for the week or preparing meals at home, it is easier to control how much food ends up on your plate than when you’re eating out.

Whether you’re planning and preparing meals at home or eating on the go, aim to fill half of each plate with vegetables, one quarter with protein-rich foods like meat, fish, poultry, eggs or beans, and one quarter with carbohydrate-rich foods like whole grains, root vegetables, or fruit.

To make this simpler, use the hand analogy to estimate portion sizes:IMG_2169

  • A portion of vegetables fits into two open hands and is about a cup
  • A portion of whole grains, starchy vegetables, or fruit is about half a cup or the size of your closed fist
  • A portion of protein-rich foods like lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or beans is about three ounces or the size of your open palm
  • A portion of of nuts, seeds, nut butter, fat, oil, or guacamole is one- to two tablespoons or about the size of your thumb

As a Fort Collins Nutritionist, I am a HUGE advocate for eating real food nutrition. . . but that doesn’t mean that how much you’re eating goes out the window! Knowing the hand analogy will help you make smart choices when you’re eating at home and also when you’re eating out or on the go.

To learn more about how to make healthy eating simple, grab your copy of my new book “Real Food, Real Simple today at

Also, I’d love to hear your comments on how the hand analogy makes eating healthy at home and on the go simpler. Have an awesome week!

Erin Harner

Erin Harner is an Integrative Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), author, and speaker based in Ithaca, NY. Erin melds functional medicine and culinary nutrition to help her clients uncover their unique diet and confidently cook healthy nourishing meals that meet the needs of their whole family. Learn about Erin's services and connect on Instagram.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *