After getting to know your body type, food intolerances and allergies, the next step to managing a healthy lifestyle is to keep your portions down to a size that is appropriate for you, not the size of your plate.
More than we need: increasing sizes
We’ve been tricked to believe that we need more food at each meal than we actually do, mainly because of the size of our plates has increased by up to 4 inches in diameter over the last couple of decades. If you don’t believe me, just do a quick google search for standard dinner plate size.
Now, it’s mainly in North America (go figure) where we’ve seen these increases; Europe has been pretty consistent with their average 9” dinner plate, in comparison to our average 12” dinner plate.
But, believe it or not, our dinner plates used to range from 7” to 9”, which probably explains why obesity rates and body fat percentages over the years have gradually increased.
Just because your average plate is 12” doesn’t mean you need to fill it to its limit, unless you’re a light-heavyweight bodybuilder competing at nationals. (Even then, they’ve got most of their meals down to a science and aren’t filling their plates as much as you would be lead to believe.)
Proper portioning is in your hands
Don’t worry, even although I know from talking to my clients this can be confusing and maybe even intimidating. I often hear from them, “So, what IS my proper portion size?”
To make things REALLY simple, let’s take it back to the pre-historic caveman era… They didn’t have plates sure, they had rocks and the ground to eat off, but they mainly ate out of their hands. The best part about our hands is that they are specific to our body size; they are proportionate to our physical size and strength and provide us with probably the best biological food measuring tool.
We can use our hands to determine the size of each macronutrient portion on our plate. While it’s not an exact science, it’s pretty darn close, for not having to use a calculator! It also helps ensure that you get the proper amount of macro/micronutrients and maintain homeostasis (energy out matches energy in).
The palm of your hand determines the size of your protein portion; it comes out to about 20-30g of protein on average (per wholly nutritious, minimally processed protein source). The size of your fist determines the size of your vegetable portion. Your cupped hand determines the portion size of your carbohydrates which, comes out to about 20-30g of carbs; and, your thumb determines the portion size of your fats which, is roughly 7-12g of fat.
Save time calculating, these guidelines are easy
These portion sizes help people obtain their correct nutrient and caloric needs without ever having to think about calories or weigh their food. Keep in mind: this is best followed with a diet full of wholly-nutritious and minimally-processed foods.
A few things to keep in mind are that physical activity will increase energy requirements, especially if the activity is frequent (3x a week or more). Gender also affects caloric requirements to a small extent – meaning, men will eat more than women on average, the inverse is also true in certain cases.
Physically active men should be eating:
6 to 8 palms of protein per day,
6 to 8 fists of vegetables per day,
6 to 8 cupped hands of carbs per day,
6 to 8 thumbs of fats per day
Physically active women should be eating:
4 to 6 palms of protein per day,
4 to 6 fists of vegetables per day,
4 to 6 cupped hands of carbs per day,
4 to 6 thumbs of fats per day
Knowing your body type can help
It’s extremely important to keep your body type in mind when structuring out these portion guides, as some body types will differ in structure than others; these are simply guidelines to follow when portioning out food appropriately.
The actual macronutrient splits will be different for each body type, but following this guideline provides us with a general daily consumption for men at 3000 calories/day, and 1500 calories/day for women.
For men looking to gain lean mass or, who are very active you can add:
1 to 2 cupped handfuls of carbs to lunch and dinner
1 to 2 thumbs of fats to a couple to breakfast and lunch
For men looking to lose body fat or, who are inactive you can remove:
1 to 2 cupped handfuls of carbs from lunch and dinner
1 to 2 thumbs of fats from breakfast and lunch
For women looking to gain lean mass or, who are very active you can add:
½ to 1 full cupped handful of carbs to lunch and dinner
½ to 1 full thumb of fats to breakfast and lunch
For women looking to lose body fat or, who are inactive you can remove:
½ to 1 full cupped handful of carbs from lunch and dinner
½ to 1 full thumb of fats from breakfast and lunch
Listen to your body
Adjust your personal portions based off your physical hunger cues: fullness, satiety, preference, goals, overall activity level, body type and most importantly: RESULTS.
When making decisions on what to eat or not to eat, always use the results to determine the next step of action to be taken.
Take your health in your own hands, literally! And, as always, if you’re looking for more information or some assistance with dieting, nutrition or fitness, feel free to contact me directly for a free consultation and assessment!
Alternately: to start establishing healthy habits, join @FitInFounder in her 90-day #healthyhabitsmovement challenge! By starting off your day right, you stand a better chance of hitting your daily health goals.
Wes Van Hart is a personal trainer, nutritionist (and far more), located in Toronto. Wes is an advocate for constantly improving both physical and mental health, and as such, he is dedicated to advancing his knowledge base, certifications and ability to help his clients, no matter how that looks.
Wes was the very first FitIn affiliate, and is a regular contributor to the FitIn blog.