Eating a good diet isn’t just about choosing the right food to eat. It means choosing the right portions, too. When you eat too much — or too little — of a food group, it can have a negative impact on your health. You need to cook and eat the right types of food, in the right amounts.
Read this guide to find out what you need to know about following proper food portion sizes for major food groups.
Starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread, and pasta offer fiber, can help you feel full, and give you the energy you need to go about your day. They should make up three to four portions of food a day. Ideally, you should focus on whole grain foods, such as whole grain bread and cereal, porridge, and brown rice. Some common portion sizes to stick to include:
Your body uses proteins for growth and repair, and you’ll need moderate amounts of protein each day. Generally, that means two to three portions of protein such as beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, and non-meat protein.
Of course, the food you choose is especially important here, as fish, for example, can be a healthier choice than a fatty cut of red meat.
In general, protein servings should be about half the size of your hand. Other portion sizes include:
Dairy and dairy alternatives can offer calcium and even protein, and you should get about two or three portions each day.
Follow these guidelines for dairy serving sizes:
Fruit and Vegetables
For fruit and vegetables, it’s generally the more, the better. You should have at least five portions a day. Be careful to avoid added sugar or fat in fruit and vegetables, as well as salt. For some fruits and vegetables, the food itself is a single serving — such as a banana. But others have different portion sizes.
Follow these guidelines for fruit and vegetables to make sure your portions are large enough:
Oils and spreads
Unsaturated oils and spreads can make food taste better, and can even offer healthy fats, essential fatty acids, and fat soluble vitamins. However, it’s easy to go overboard if you’re not mindful of portion sizes.
Stick to these portion sizes so you can include unsaturated oils and spreads in small amounts:
Everyone needs a little treat now and then, but like oils and spreads, it’s best to limit how much you consume of this food type. They’re not necessary, and when you do consume them, portion sizes should be small.
Some portion size examples for treats include:
Are your portion sizes on track? Generally, it’s a good idea to start with fruits and vegetables in your meal plan, then expand out to starchy carbohydrates, protein, and dairy, then oils, spreads, and treats as needed. Stay on top of the recommended portion sizes so you can keep your diet in balance and make sure you’re getting enough of the right food — and avoiding too much of others.
Susan Austin is a family research specialist with Family Living Today. A mother of three and small business owner in Texas, Austin spends her days juggling work and family life — sometimes expertly, sometimes not.