Knowing what to eat is only half the battle when it comes to healthy nutrition… you also have to know how much to eat.
Over time, food and drink portions have increased in size. And the more food we’re served on the plate, the more food we consume, which leads to overeating. This is especially true at restaurants, work lunches, and other venues.
And while I always advocate for tracking your macronutrient numbers and following the metrics, sometimes life happens! In a pinch, whether you’re out with friends or traveling, you need quick solutions to help you when you don’t have time to count.
A simple, effective and proven method is the Hand Portion Method.
By having a guide to manage portion sizes, we can eat foods in a healthy, balanced way and still maintain control over our own choices.
The idea is that you’re not measuring or weighing your food using technology, but rather using your own hand to gauge the size of the portion. Your hands are proportional to your body, and they go where you go. This makes them the perfect tool to quickly, and easily gage your portion size, even when you’re eating out.
This method is for anyone who struggles with the idea of using food tracking apps and meal logs, or if you simply need a quick solution while you’re out.
It’s the perfect way to build any meal when you can’t hard track them. To get started, try each step below:
Step 1: Start With Protein
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you probably saw this coming!
Protein is the most important variable and base of our meals and the first choice when assembling your meal.
Why is it the base of our meal?
Protein is at the forefront as the most important nutrient, not just for muscle building, but for support, transport of nutrients, as an enzyme, and much more!
In the western diet, it is very common for carbohydrates to make up the foundation of a meal. Unfortunately, these carbohydrates are often highly refined and have a high glycemic index, which will leave us hungrier two hours later.
Protein, on the other hand, supports our muscle building efforts and leaves us fuller for longer.
How do I apply this step?
Raise your hand in front of your face. This will be your new portion measure. Here, we will apply a method pioneered by Precision Nutrition.
For protein, one serving can be measured as one to two palm-sizes of meat, fish, dairy or plant based source of protein.
Here are some examples:
- Chicken breast
- Turkey mince
- Lean beef
- Beef jerky
- Low-fat dairy yogurt
- Protein bar
- Scoop of whey protein
Step 2: Fill Half the Plate With Your Vegetables, Fruits, and Starches of Choice
We have all heard that fruit and vegetables should be the foundation of a healthy diet. But do we really know why?
In short, they provide essential micronutrients (e.g. vitamins and minerals), antioxidants and fiber needed for:
- Energy production
- Immune function
- Control of inflammation
- Healthy digestive system
- Overall health
What are some examples of fruit and veg portions?
- 1-2 handfuls of spinach in stir fry
- Mixed garden vegetables
- Chopped peppers/carrots and hummus
- Mixed fruit salad
- Roasted sweet potato fries
Step 3: Fill The Remainder Of Your Plate With Carbs
Why does this step come last?
Carbohydrates are NOT BAD when portion control is implemented.
However, it often comes as a surprise to see one true serving size of rice, pasta or bread. It is a lot smaller than one would think. That is why I recommend filling the plate up and adding the carb last!
What are some good sources of carbohydrates?
- Brown/White rice & pasta
- Bulgur wheat
- Whole meal bread (or Ezekiel Bread)
- Red potatoes
- Sweet potato
Step 4: Add a Source Of Healthy Fats… Unless It’s Already On Your Plate!
Why should we include fat, I thought it was bad?
When I say healthy fats, I simply mean unsaturated fats, versus saturated. Dietary fat is not only perfectly OK to consume, but it is essential. We need fatty acids for several crucial functions including the absorption of vitamins, production of hormones and cell protection.
Now, if you’re at a restaurant eating a big juicy steak or sizeable animal protein, you’re likely getting plenty of fats in your food and can skip this step.
And if your restaurant had already cooked and/or doused your foods in oils or added them in your dressings, you’ve already got plenty as well.
How do I apply this step?
Raise your hand in front of your face again. Stick out your thumb. Depending on your size, try and incorporate 1-2 thumb sizes of fat into your meal.
Here are some examples:
- Cold-pressed, virgin olive oil (for cooking)
- Coconut oil (saturated fat, but still good)
- Small handful of nuts (1-2 thumbs)
- Seeds (flax, chia, etc.)
- Avocado oil (for cooking)
With those four steps, you’ll be able to easily minimize the impact that travel or going out can have on your diet, metrics, and numbers. It isn’t perfect, nor does it replace weighing & tracking your food for optimum results.
But we live in the real world, and being able to modify and adjust on the fly is essential to keeping your body healthy and your sanity in check.