Most of us—even the experts!—underestimate how many calories we eat. That’s because portion sizes can be hard to judge without measuring or weighing everything you eat. Use this handy guide to estimate portion sizes and put together a healthy meal using the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) MyPlate model. Mix in a few unexpected calorie-burning activities, and you’re on your way to a healthy day.
The USDA’s guide for healthy eating—MyPlate—gives us visual guidance for constructing a healthful dinner, breakfast or lunch. In a nutshell, here’s how to make a MyPlate meal:
1. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
2. Give a quarter of your plate to grains—make them whole grains at least half of the time.
3. Plate a bit less than a quarter of your dish with protein.
4. Include a serving of low-fat dairy or calcium-fortified soymilk.
1 tsp. = tip of your thumb (to the middle joint)
1 Tbsp. = your whole thumb
1 cup = your fist
3 oz. meat = palm of your hand
MyPlate offers a great visual model for putting together healthy meals—but doesn’t tell you much about the serving sizes you should be shooting for. Here’s some help:
Vegetables: A portion of vegetables, cooked or raw (broccoli florets, carrots, green beans, etc.) is 1 cup; a portion of salad greens or raw spinach, though, is 2 cups. A potato should be about the size of a computer mouse.
Fruits: A portion of fresh fruit is 1 cup (about the size of a tennis ball or a 60-watt light bulb)—that’s a kiwi, an orange, half a grapefruit or 1 cup (8 oz.) of juice. One portion of fruit also equals 1/2 cup of dried fruit.
Grains: An "ounce equivalent" portion of grains is 1/2 cup rice, oatmeal or cooked pasta. A piece of small presliced bread, a 1-inch slice of a baguette, or a hockey-puck-size bagel counts as a portion.
Dairy: A portion of dairy equals 1 cup (8 oz.) of milk, yogurt or calcium-fortified soymilk, or 1/2 cup ricotta cheese or 1/ 3 cup shredded cheese. Three dominos or a tube of lipstick are about equal to the size of a 1 1/2-oz portion of hard cheese.
Protein: A 4-oz serving of fish is about the size of a checkbook. A healthy 3-oz serving of meat or poultry is the size of a deck of cards or a bar of soap. Other sources of protein include beans (1/4 cup is 1 oz.), eggs (one egg is 1 oz.), nuts (49 pistachios, 23 almonds, 14 walnut halves or 2 tablespoons of nut butter all count as 2 oz. of protein).