Portion size guide: Keep your weight-loss goals on track, avoid bloating and more

Our handy portion size guide will show you how to balance the perfect plate at every meal...

Man using a portion size guide
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is our portion size guide, perfect if you're still not hitting your weight-loss goals after trying lots of different methods. If you’ve swapped the bar for the barre and ditched unhealthy grub but you're still not seeing results, you might be overloading your plate. 

Nutritionist Shona Wilkinson (opens in new tab) says portion size is ‘incredibly important’ and recommends decreasing your portion size by 15 per cent for fat loss. This also has some scientific merit for longevity: in the fabled "blue zones" such as the island in Okinawa, where people live the longest, a common maxim is to eat until you're 80% full to avoid overstuffing yourself. 

That might seem easier said than done. After all, what does a typical portion size look like? Below, we detail how much of particular foods you should be eating, categorized by food type…

Fruit and veg portion size guide

Recent research by Imperial College London (opens in new tab) suggested that 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day could prevent premature death, but even two and a half portions can reduce the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. One portion is roughly one handful. 

One portion of fruit includes:

  • One medium apple, pear, banana or orange
  • One tablespoon on dried fruit
  • Two satsumas
  • 12 grapes

One portion of vegetables includes:

  • One celery stalk
  • Three heaped tablespoons of cauliflower, peas, broccoli, peppers, carrots of courgettes
  • One tomato or seven cherry tomatoes
  • Four heaped tablespoons of dark green leafy veg, such as kale or spinach

Carbohydrates portion size guide

Depending on your activity level, most people need six to eight portions of starchy carbs per day. This could be:

  • One slice of bread
  • One crumpet
  • Half a bagel
  • Three tablespoons of oats
  • Two egg-sized potatoes
  • Three heaped tablespoons of pasta
  • Three heaped tablespoons of cooked rice
  • Three tablespoons of cereal

Dairy portion size guide

Aim for three portions of dairy a day, which could include:

  • 200ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 150g yoghurt (one small pot)
  • 30g hard cheese

Meat and protein portion size guide

  • 70g cooked lean meat (equivalent to the size of a deck of cards)
  • 140g cooked fish (equivalent to the size of a cheque book)
  • Two medium eggs
  • Three heaped tablespoons of beans
  • 120g uncooked soya, tofu or Quorn

Good fats portion size guide

They might be healthy, but beware of going overboard on these fatty foods by sticking to the recommended portion sizes:

  • ½ medium avocado
  • One teaspoon of olive oil
  • 49 pistachios
  • 22 almonds
  • Six Brazil nuts
  • Seven walnuts

Portion sizes and the perfect plate

To nail your healthy eating plan, make sure your plate is perfectly balanced at each meal. Half should be vegetables, one quarter should be protein and one quarter should be carbohydrates. If you’re vegan, eat half beans or lentils and half veg. And contrary to what you might think, fats – including salad dressings, nuts and seeds – are encouraged, just be sure to stick to the guide portion sizes.

Lucy is a freelance journalist specializing in health, fitness and lifestyle. She was previously the Health and Fitness Editor across various women's magazines, including Woman&Home, Woman and Woman’s Own as well as Editor of Feel Good You. She has also previously written for titles including Now, Look, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Red and The Sun. 

She lives and breathes all things fitness; working out every morning with a mix of running, weights, boxing and long walks. Lucy is a Level 3 personal trainer and teaches classes at various London studios. Plus, she's pre- and post-natal trained and helps new mums get back into fitness after the birth of their baby. Lucy claims that good sleep, plenty of food and a healthy gut (seriously, it's an obsession) are the key to maintaining energy and exercising efficiently. Saying this, she's partial to many classes of champagne and tequila on the rocks whilst out with her friends.