Whether you’re trying to lose a few kilos or you just want to make sure you’re staying fit and healthy, portion sizes are a must to keep in check. Often, we’ll forget about how hungry we actually feel and just eat until we feel full. However, thinking about your portion sizes and adjusting them accordingly can help you to stay at a healthy weight range or help you to lose weight (depending on your goals).

Some people think they’re eating healthily, but their portion sizes aren’t correct. A person may go to the gym every day followed by some raisin toast, a smoothie and perhaps a delicious acai bowl from a local cafe. But, at the end of the week, they may not understand why they’re not losing weight. This would come down to portion sizes. 

Although you may be eating healthily, your portion may be too big leaving you to eat maybe two, sometimes three times as much as what you should be. Of course, it’s always important to check on ingredients and calorie intake. But, for a seriously simple way to start learning more about what goes into your body, checking on your portion sizes is a good start.

What is a serve?

When we look at ‘serving sizes’, it’s important to note that different foods will also have different portion sizes and daily requirements in order to fulfil a balanced diet. 

  • Grains and cereals: 4-6 serves per day
  • Vegetables: 5+ serves per day
  • Fruit: 2 serves per day
  • Protein: 2-3 serves per day
  • Dairy or alternatives: 3-4 per day
  • Unsaturated fats: 2-4 per day
  • Treat foods: Not every day (only for a treat!)

To add to this, each food group will have a different serving size depending on the type of food that you are consuming.

What is a serve of vegetables?

A standard serve is approximately 75g of vegetables. This may include:

  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • 1 cup of leafy greens
  • ½ a corn cob
  • ½ cup of baked beans
  • 1 small potato

What is a serve of grains/cereals?

A standard serve of grains or cereals is 500kj (about 119 calories). This may include:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • ½ a cup of cooked porridge
  • ½ cup of cooked pasta
  • ¼ cup of muesli
  • 1 crumpet

What is a serve of fruit?

A standard serve of fruit is about 150g and may include:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 apple
  • 2 tablespoons of sultanas
  • Half a small glass of no-added-sugar fruit juice

What is a serve of protein?

Protein includes a number of different foods such as lean meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes. The standard size of protein is 500-600kj and can include:

  • 2 large eggs
  • A palm-sized piece of meat (or  90-100g of meat)
  • A block of tofu the size of a deck of cards (about 170g)
  • 1 cup of cooked legumes
  • A small can of fish (such as tuna or salmon)
  • A handful of nuts or seeds (around 30g)

What is a serve of dairy?

Dairy or dairy alternatives include cheese, yoghurt, milk and dairy alternative foods. When choosing dairy products, choose items that are reduced fat. A serving size is 500 – 600kj and includes:

  • A 200g tub of yoghurt
  • 2 slices of reduced-fat cheese (40g)
  • A small milky coffee such as a flat white
  • 1 cup of cow’s milk or other milk alternatives

What is a serve of unsaturated fats?

Stick to 2-4 serves of unsaturated fats per day. These items include:

  • A quarter of an avocado
  • 2 teaspoons of oil

Other ways to reduce portion sizes

It can be hard to track your portion sizes, especially if you have a busy lifestyle, but there are a few things you can do to reduce over-eating and reduce your overall consumption of calories and larger portions:

  1. Drink water before eating
    If you’re eating at a restaurant or even at home, try to drink a glass of water half an hour before eating. You’ll be able to feel a little fuller and, if you’re dehydrated, you’ll help reduce the severity of the dehydration. We tend to overeat when we’re dehydrated, so get a nice glass of water before eating your meal.
  2. Avoid eating from plastic/takeaway containers
    Although medium-sized chips from your favourite takeaway store might not seem like much, you’ll be surprised how much food fits in there! If you were to put all of your takeaway food onto a plate, you’ll soon see how much you’re really eating. If possible, put your food on a plate so you can enjoy a treat without overdoing it.
  3. Slow down when eating
    It can take up to half an hour for our body and brain to communicate and understand that you’re actually full. By eating slowly, you’ll be able to enjoy your meal a lot more, plus you’ll be able to pick up on cues that you’re actually getting full. If you’re prone to overeating, eat slowly and aim to eat two-thirds of your plate. By the time you finish that amount, you may receive the cue that you’re actually full. If you’re still hungry after waiting some time, you can go back to your plate and eat what you need.

For more information on meal planning, food portions and dietary guidelines, see the Eat For Health website or chat with your GP about your personal dietary requirements.