Most of us probably don't think about portion size when we eat. But having a healthy, balanced diet is about getting the right types of foods and drinks in the right amounts.
The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has published a guide which gives people an idea of portion sizes for different foods and how many portions of each food group to aim for each day.
Called Find your Balance, the BNF guide to portion size aims to help you find the right balance for you - it's not only about eating less, it’s also about eating differently!
The BNF advice is designed to complement the Government’s Eatwell Guide, which provides guidance on the proportions of the food groups that make up a healthy, balanced diet.
Getting portion sizes right for you
We’re all individuals with different needs but for healthy adults the range of different foods we need is pretty much the same for all of us. However, the amount of food we need, varies from person to person.
The portion sizes in the BNF guide are averages for healthy adults, based on a daily calorie allowance of 2000kcal - the amount estimated for an average, healthy weight, adult woman. If you’re tall or very active you may need more and could have larger portions. If you’re a small person or are trying to lose weight, you may need smaller portions. The guide offers spoon and hand measurements, which may be easier in daily life than continually getting out the scales If you’re measuring with your hands then these will vary with the size of your hands, and so generally bigger people will automatically get bigger portions and smaller people will get smaller portions.
There are lots of different ways to eat a healthy diet and you can use the BNF guidance to fit in with your preferences and beliefs – from Mediterranean, vegetarian or vegan to a more traditional British diet. It’s about balancing the food groups and finding the portion sizes that are right for you.
Finding your balance across the day
From each food group, the BNF suggests adults should eat the following portions during the day to stay healthy:
- Fruit and vegetables: 5+ portions per day
- Starchy carbohydrates: 3-4 portions per day
- Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins: 2-3 portions per day
- Dairy and alternatives: 2-3 portions per day
If you really want to measure portion size accurately the best way is to weigh your food but the guide provides some practical measures using your hands and spoons to help you get an idea of sensible portion sizes. For example:
- 2 handfuls of dried pasta shapes or rice (75g)
- A bunch of spaghetti the size of a £1 coin, measured using your finger and thumb (75g)
- The amount of cooked pasta or rice that would fit in two hands cupped together (180g)
- A baked potato about the size of your fist (220g)
- About 3 handfuls of breakfast cereal (40g)
- A piece of grilled chicken breast about half the size of your hand (120g)
- A piece of cheddar cheese about the size of two thumbs together (30g)
- About 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (20g)
- About 3 teaspoons of soft cheese (30g)
- A medium-sized fruit - 1 apple, banana, pear, orange or nectarine
The BNF has produced the following booklets and guides – click on the titles to download a copy:
- Find your balance - booklet with example portion sizes and an example of portions for meals and snacks across a day
- Find your balance - full portion size list with details of portion sizes for a range of foods as well as more information and FAQs
- Find your balance - one page simple guide - perfect for putting on the fridge
These articles are for information purposes. Please follow the advice of your clinician / health professional if you have a specific health and wellbeing issue.