Portion Sizes

British Dietetic Association

A portion is the amount of a food that you eat at one time, for example how much food you put on your plate at a meal or how much is in a packet.

Why are portion sizes important?

The key to eating a balanced diet is to eat a wide variety of foods in appropriate amounts. Making healthier choices and choosing to eat some foods more often, and in larger amounts, than others.

It is important to be aware of portion sizes, as eating too much or not enough of any type of food can increase your risk of health problems. This is because your body may be getting too much or too little of what it needs to stay healthy.

As every person is different, the recommended number of portions for each food will vary according to age, sex, size, health and other factors, but this sheet provides a good place to get you started.

Carbohydrates – what is a portion?

Type of food

Portion Size

What does this look like?

Bread

34g-36g

One medium slice

Pasta (boiled)

75g uncooked / 150g cooked

Two to three tablespoons

Rice (boiled)

50g uncooked / 150g cooked

Two to three tablespoons

Potatoes (boiled with skin)*

175g

Three (egg-sized) or five to six (thumb-sized new potatoes)

Baked potato (with skin)*

180g

One medium

Puffed or flaked breakfast cereals

30g

Three tablespoons / two biscuits

Porridge oats / shredded cereals

40g

Three tablespoons

Muesli / granola

45g

Two to three tablespoons

*Potatoes do not contribute to one of your 5-a-day, however sweet potatoes, parsnips, swedes and turnips do.

Top tip: Choose wholegrains or higher fibre versions with less added fat, salt and sugar. Be mindful that the carbohydrate portions provided contain different amounts of carbohydrate and calories.

Dairy and alternatives – what is a portion?

Type of food

Portion Size

What does this look like?

Milk

200ml (1/3 pint)

One glass

Calcium fortified plant-based alternative

200ml (1/3 pint)

One glass

Yoghurt

125g-150g

One standard pot / three tablespoons

Cheese (hard)

30g

A small matchbox-sized piece

Top tip: Try to choose lower fat and lower sugar options where possible.

Protein – what is a portion?

Type of food

Portion Size

What does this look like?

Animal protein

 

 

Cooked meat (beef, pork, lamb, mince, chicken, turkey)

90g

A deck of cards

Cooked white fish (cod or plaice) or canned fish

140g

Palm of hand

Cooked oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)

140g

Palm of hand

Eggs

120g

Two medium

Plant Protein

 

 

Baked beans

150g

Four tablespoons

Beans (kidney beans, butterbeans, black eyed beans)

150g

Four tablespoons

Pulses (lentils, chickpeas)

150g

Four tablespoons

Soya/tofu, plant-based meat alternative

100g

Four tablespoons

Unsalted nuts or nut butter

30g

One handful or tablespoon

Top tip: Eat more beans and pulses such as lentils and peas, and two portions (140g) of sustainably sourced fish per week, one of which is oily such as mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines, herring. Eat less red and processed meat. Choose lean meat.

Fruit and vegetables – what is a portion?

Type of food

Portion Size

What does this look like

An apple / pear / orange / banana

80g

One medium (size of clenched fist)

Grapes

80g

10-12 or handful

Berries

80g

15-20 or cupped hands

Plums/apricots/kiwis/satsumas

80g

Two fruits

Dried fruit e.g. raisins

30g

A small handful/one tablespoon

Peas / carrots / sweetcorn / mixed vegetables

80g

Three heaped tablespoons

Pepper

80g

Half

Cherry tomatoes

80g

Seven

Cucumber

80g

2.5cm piece

Salad

80g

Cereal bowlful

Top tip: Eat at least five portions (400g) of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. Choose from fresh, frozen, canned (in juice) or dried. Eat a rainbow!

Oils and spreads – what is a portion?

Type of food

Portion Size

What does this look like

Butter or spread

5g

One teaspoon

Oil

5ml / 3g

One teaspoon

Oil

15ml / 11g

One tablespoon

Top tip: Use small amounts of oils and spreads and measure out. Choose unsaturated vegetable oils such as olive oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil.

Drinks – what is a portion?

Drink plenty of fluids – generally six to eight cups or glasses daily but this will depend on age, gender, the weather, how much physical activity you do and health. Water, lower fat milks, lower sugar or sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee all count. Younger children need relatively smaller servings (150ml-200ml) whereas older children and adults need larger servings (250ml-300ml).

Fruit juice and smoothies should be limited to one small glass (150ml) per day at a mealtime to protect your teeth.

Mixing food types and portions

People will often have more than one portion of one food type at each meal. Based on the portion sizes above:

  • A sandwich with two slices of bread with two teaspoons of spread (one on each slice) would be two portions of carbohydrates and two portions of fats
  • A meal including meat or fish plus beans or pulses would be two portions of protein
  • A meal containing broccoli and carrots would be two portions of vegetables

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