Portion Smart: Eating Foods, the Right Way

Imagine a bag of chips. The label might list a serving size as 28 grams, but let’s be honest, who stops at just that? That’s where portion size comes in. It’s the amount of food you choose to eat, which can be more or less than a serving size. Think of a serving size as a standardized measurement, while your portion size is a personalized decision. Packaged foods – so handy, so tempting! They help us grab-and-go, but their sneaky serving sizes and clever marketing can trick us into eating more than we need. That’s where mindful eating comes in – paying attention to our hunger and munching mindfully. In this article, we talk about the influence of food portions.

Richa Pande

Factors like gender, age, and hunger impact how much we eat, but our minds also play tricks on us. Our plates are more than just containers; they’re influenced by a mix of psychology and biology. Visual cues, plate size, and optical illusions can make us think a plate is emptier than it is. Emotions, social pressure, and marketing further affect our food and portion choices.

Here are some handy ways to measure your portion sizes:

  • Your hand: Your palm can be a rough guide for a serving.
  • Measuring cups: Invest in a set of measuring cups for accurate portion control of grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Food labels: Pay attention to serving sizes listed on food labels. They might not be your ideal portion, but they’re a good starting point.
  • Food measuring scales: For ultimate precision, especially with meats and cheeses, consider using a food measuring scale. These handy tools take the guesswork out of portion control and ensure you’re consuming the exact amount you need.

My Plate Guide to Decoding Portion Sizes for Indians

My Plate, designed by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), offers recommended food guidelines and portion sizes tailored to the unique dietary requirements and cultural nuances of India. Familiarizing oneself with these food groups can contribute make mindful food choices. The plate’s suggested proportions guarantee sufficient intake of various micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals, as well as bioactive compounds, functional foods, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients.


  • Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are rich in essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants, which are beneficial for overall health. Opt for whole fruits over juices and have green leafy vegetables. You should be having foods from this food group the most. It’s recommended to have 400 grams of vegetables (out of these, 100g of green leafy vegetables), and 100 grams of fruits daily.
  • Grains & millets: Grains and Millets are rich in carbohydrates and are a significant source of energy, as well as essential nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Some millets also have more protein than regular cereals. It’s recommended to have 250 grams of food items from this group every day, for example 8 chapatis every day or katoris of red rice or millets.
  • Pulses, Eggs, & Flesh Products: This food group comprising pulses, eggs, and flesh foods is a crucial component of a balanced and nutritious diet, providing essential protein and a range of vital nutrients. Pulses, including lentils, chickpeas, beans, and peas, offer plant-based protein, fibre, and various vitamins and minerals. Eggs, being nutrient-dense, contribute high-quality protein, essential amino acids, and important nutrients like vitamin B12 and choline. Flesh foods, such as meat, poultry, and fish, are rich in complete proteins, iron, zinc, and other essential nutrients. As per the ICMR guidelines, incorporating approximately 85 grams these sources daily is recommended.
  • Fats & Oils: This food group consists of visible fats that can be added to the diet to provide a source of concentrated energy and essential fatty acids. This category includes fats from both animal and plant sources, such as butter, cooking oils like olive oil, canola oil, etc., margarine, and ghee. These fats serve as flavour enhancers, contribute to the texture of foods, and play a crucial role in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). It’s recommended to take 27 g of visible fats daily. A teaspoon= 5 ml of oil or melted butter/ melted ghee.
  • Dairy Products: Dairy products contain many essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin B, protein, and other vitamins and minerals. Common dairy products include milk, buttermilk, cheese, paneer, and curd. The recommended daily intake for the dairy food group is approximately 300 ml / grams.
Food groups Foods to be consumed raw weight (g/day) % of Energy from each food group/ day Total Energy from each food group/ day (Kcal) Total protein from each food group/ day (g) Total Fat from each food group/ day (g) Total Carbs from each food group/ day (g)
Cereals (incl. Nutri cereals) 250 42 843 25 5 172
Pulses* 85 14 274 20 3 42
Milk/ Curd (ml) 300 11 216 10 13 16
Vegetables* green leafy vegetable (GLV) 400 9 174 10 2 28
Fruits 100 3 56 1 1 11
Nuts & Seeds 35 9 181 6 15 6
Fats & Oils 27 12 243 27
Total 1200 2000 15% of Total Energy Intake 30 % of Total Energy Intake

Table: Food  Groups & Recommended Portions, My Plate for the Day, ICMR NIN

  • Nuts and Seeds: They are rich in healthy fats, protein, fibre, and many essential nutrients such as vitamins, and minerals. The recommended daily intake for the nuts and seeds food group is approximately 35 grams.

Mastering Portion Control for Smarter Snacking

Packaged foods offer undeniable convenience, but going through the recommended serving size is important before picking the portion of that food product. The “serving size” listed on labels is the recommended portion you should be having. Consider it a starting point, like a map rather than a definitive destination. Your ideal portion, the one that truly nourishes and satiates, will depend on your unique needs and circumstances. While packaged options are tempting, preparing meals at home offers greater control over portion sizes. Opt for smaller plates and bowls. This visual trick can trick your brain into feeling satisfied with smaller portions, promoting both physical and mental well-being. Avoid distractions while eating. Put down your phone, turn off the TV, and focus on the sensory experience of savouring each bite. This helps you appreciate the taste, texture, and aroma of your food, preventing mindless overconsumption. Don’t skip meals in the hopes of “saving calories” for later snacks. Instead, fuel your body consistently with balanced meals and mindful snacks throughout the day. This avoids hunger pangs that can lead to impulsive overeating.

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