Q&A: How Do I Gauge Portion Sizes (Especially When Eating Out)?

Members Only Video!

Today’s Question is from Kylie S. and she asked, “Hey Natalie!  Thank you so much for answering these questions in your vlogs it is really helpful.  My question is about portion sizes.  I struggle with knowing how big or small of portions I should be having on things like carbs, fats, and protein.  I get really confused when I am trying to go out to eat too.  Do you have any suggestions or advice?”

Great question Kylie.  In this video, I give you the same four tips and advice that I follow myself!


1) Know the palm, fist, and thumb rule. On a regular basis I don’t track calories and macronutrients all the time.  If I am trying to lean down for a specific event or hit a specific goal then I will count calories, but on an every-day basis I don’t.  For me, it can become a little bit compulsive and obsessive to count every gram of food that enters your mouth 100% of the time.  I think of things in terms of carbs, fats, and proteins.  From there, I follow the hand method.
Protein serving – the size of your palm (~3-4oz)
Carbohydrate serving – the size of your closed fist (~5-6oz)
Fat serving – the size of your thumb (~1-2oz)

Each one of us will have different calorie requirements based on our height, age, weight, past dieting history, daily activity levels, etc.  But, the hand guide is a great rule of thumb to follow if you aren’t into counting calories or if you are going out to eat and don’t have access to a food scale or measuring cups.

2) Follow the serving size listed on the back of your food labels.  For example, a carb source we eat often is Ezekiel bread.  The label on the back shows me that a serving size is one slice.  Try to make it a habit to check the back of your labels and make it routine to check the portion sizes listed.  If you are eating something that doesn’t have a label (fresh fruits, vegetables, etc) there is a really good website called nutritiondata.self.com that has really accurate nutrition data for nearly all foods.

3) Tracking your calories on occasion can help you gauge accurate portion sizes.  This isn’t something that I do year round.  This is because for me, personally, it was something that became very obsessive.  I started to get stressed out if I couldn’t measure exact amounts of food I was eating and it just wasn’t a healthy mindset for me to have long term.  I knew it wasn’t feasible for me to live my life for the next 50 years measuring and tracking every gram of food that went into my mouth.  With that being said, I do think it is a good exercise to track your food on occasion for 7-10 days or so.  Tracking your food can make you really aware of the amount of food that you are actually eating.  So for me, it made me really recognize certain patterns.  I may have discovered that I was eating much more fat in my diet than I thought I was each day.  Or I may have noticed that I wasn’t getting near enough protein in my diet.  So, tracking for a short period of time can really open your eyes and help you set up healthy habits for portion sizes for the types of foods you regularly eat.  So if you have found that you are plateauing, or are losing weight like you want, it can be a really good exercise every 1-2 months to track your food for a week or so.  This will help you recognize if you are using accurate portion sizes (see #1 &2 to determine what accurate portion sizes are) and better estimate your portions when you aren’t tracking in the future.

4) Try really hard not to skip meals.  I have found that when I skip meals I get really hungry and am just generally not that fun to be around.  My husband always teases that if I am grumpy he needs to feed me or let me take a nap.  But in regards to portion sizes, I find that when I skip a meal I usually get really hungry and my portion size guide kind of goes out the window.  I eat because I’m hungry, not because I am aware of my portion sizes.  I’ve found that if I eat 4-5 meals during the day then my portion sizes tend to be more consistent throughout the day.

To recap, the four tips are:
1) Use the Hand, Fist & Thumb Rule
2) Follow Serving Sizes on Labels
3) Count Calories Occasionally
4) Don’t Skip Meals

I hope that helps!!  If you have any other specific questions, please leave them in the comments below!

Your Friend,


Share this post

Leave a Reply

I’m Natalie

Ten years ago I started out in the online world in the fitness space. I started blogging, sharing at-home exercises, and offering easy recipes. This turned into writing eBooks — one of which blew up in a way I could never imagine!

search the site

Peak Business Academy ​
This proven step-by-step program will guide you through my complete course with videos, trainings, and accountability.

featured posts

post categories

popular posts

free guide!

Mompreneur Tips
and Tricks

Working from home when you have children can be really hard.

Here are my favorite ways to get work done as a “mompreneur”.

Scroll to Top