Portion Control

For people with diabetes, it is important to talk about both the types of food eaten and the amount eaten. Portion sizes have been continuously growing in restaurants and at home. This has distorted our views of the amount of food in a serving, and has had big impact on our waistlines!

A portion and a serving are different. A portion is the amount of food eaten at one sitting. A serving is the reference amount of food as defined by Health Canada in Canada’s Food Guide or in the Nutrition Facts Table on the food label. For instance, a sandwich made with two slices of bread is one portion because it is the total amount that is eaten. The sandwich provides two servings of grain products because each slice of bread is classified as a single serving of grain products.

Portion control can help achieve and maintain a healthy weight and manage blood glucose levels. Here’s how you do it:

Step #1:

Understand how much you need to eat each day. Follow your diabetes meal plan that you developed with a Registered Dietitian or Diabetes Educator it identifies your specific food requirements that you portion out into meals and snacks for the day. Also, the Canada’s Food Guide outlines the daily recommended number of servings from each of the four food groups.

Step #2:

Use measuring cups, spoons, and kitchen scales to learn what a recommended serving looks like. Alternatively, you can also use your hands to estimate portion sizes:
Fruit, grains and starches:
Aim for a portion which is about the size of your fist. 

Milk and milk alternatives:
A reasonable portion is 250 mL (1 cup).

Try to have two handfuls with both lunch and dinner.

Meat and alternatives:
A reasonable portion is about the size of your palm and the thickness of your little finger. This is about 75 g (2.5 oz).

Limit fat to a portion about the size of the tip of one thumb.

Step #3: Use these tips to help control portion sizes:

Do the math! Check the Nutrition Facts Panel on packages, it shows nutrition information for a specified serving size, which may be more or less than the portion you choose to eat. Adjust nutrition information to the portion size you are eating. For more on label reading, click here

Aim to eat a meal or snack every 3 – 4 hours. Space meals no more than 6 hours apart. Make snacks count from a nutrition point of view and avoid those with little or no nutritional value. This will help blood glucose management and help prevent overeating.

Take your time. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to catch up with your stomach. By eating slowly you’ll likely feel satisfied with less food. Put your fork down between bites and focus on the food – savour the flavour, texture, smell… Mmmm…

Downsize your dishes. Instead of over-sized dinner plates and bowls, use 20 cm (8 inch, salad-size) plates and smaller cereal bowls. One serving of oatmeal is just 175 mL (3/4 cup) – it might look like a measly amount in an extra-large bowl, but will appear plentiful in a smaller bowl. Fill those smaller dishes, and satisfy your eyes and tummy and eat less in the process!
  • Dole out a serving. Big packages encourage big portions and it’s hard to know how much you’ve eaten when you eat directly out of the package! Measure out a serving onto a plate or into a bowl before you start munching, and put the rest away.
  • Treat yourself! Feeling deprived can lead to over eating or bingeing. Enjoy a treat once in a while - it will help keep you on track in the long run!

On average people make 200 food decisions a day. Try this 1, 2, 3 strategy to help control your portion decisions.