Portion size

Generally speaking, portion size refers to the amount of a particular food that is on the plate, whereas serving size is a measured amount of food, usually recommended by the food manufacturer. However, portion size and serving size are often used interchangeably.

Generally speaking, portion size refers to the amount of a particular food that is on the plate, whereas serving size is a measured amount of food, usually recommended by the food manufacturer. However, portion size and serving size are often used interchangeably.


Often the amount of food we want or think we need is larger than the amount of food our body actually needs. The portion of food our bodies need depends on our age, gender, build, lifestyle and activity levels.


Dairy is a highly nutritious food group, providing protein, calcium, iodine, vitamin A and riboflavin.

Cheese can be a fantastic, but many varieties can be high in saturated fat (the kind we should be limiting our consumption of) and sometimes salt, too. If you find it difficult to stick to the recommended portion of cheese, try to opt for lower-fat versions, such as cottage cheese or ricotta.

Milk =
200ml or a small glass
Cheese = a standard matchbox
Yoghurt = 1 small pot

Meat & Fish

While meat can definitely play a part in a healthy diet, the majority of meat-eaters often consume too much. Cutting down our meat intake can be good for both our own health as well as the health of our planet. Alongside having a few meat-free days each week, make sure you’re not overdoing it with your portion sizes. And remember to opt for higher-welfare meat whenever you can.

Fish is rich in protein, numerous vitamins and minerals and is generally pretty low in fat. We should be aiming to consume two portions each week, at least one of which should be an oily fish fish (think mackerel, salmon and similar). These oily fish are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which help keep our hearts healthy. Always try to choose fish that’s been produced sustainably.

Meat or poultry
= 1 deck of playing cards
Fish = 1 cheque book

Nuts & Pulses

Most nuts are a fantastic source of veggie-friendly protein and heart-healthy fats, plus a great range of different vitamins and minerals. However, due to their high fat content, it’s best to keep an eye on how many you’re eating!

Pulses, including beans and lentils are another great veggie protein source. If you’re trying to cut down your meat intake, these are a great switch as they’re much lower in fat and also really high in fibre.


Whole nuts
= 1 golf ball
Nut butters = 1 ping pong ball
Beans and lentils = 1 light bulb

Fruit & Veg

In general, a portion of fresh fruit or veg is roughly 80g and we should aim for a minimum of five portions each day.

Many fruits naturally exist in single-portion sizes, which means working out their contribution to our 5-a-day is a breeze – but not all of them! To get the biggest range of vitamins and minerals into your diet, pick as many different colours of fruit and veg as possible.

Fruit juice can count as one of your 5-a-day, but is also very high in sugar. So limit your servings to around 150ml, and try diluting your juice with water to lower the sugar content further. Or why not add some sparkling water to make a delicious fruit spritz?

Dried fruits are a great source of fibre, but are lower in vitamins that their fresh counterparts. The sugar here is also much more concentrated than it is in fresh fruit.


Vegetables = 1 cricket ball
Salad = 1 medium cereal bowl
Medium fruits (apples, bananas, pears) = 1 fruit
Small fruits (plums, satsumas, kiwis ) = 2 fruits
Berries = 1 tennis ball
Dried fruit = 1 golf ball


Starchy, wholegrain carbohydrates should make up around a third of our diets as they provide us with the slow-release energy we need to keep us going through the day. It’s really easy to overdo it on the carb front, though, so make sure you watch your portions (who isn’t guilty of wolfing down a huge bowl of delicious pasta every now and then?!)

Pasta, rice, couscous
= 1 tennis ball
Potatoes = 1 computer mouse
70g bread = 2 slices or 1 large roll
60g noodles = 1 dried noodle nest


Heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil and rapeseed oil, are a great alternative to saturated fats (think butter and lard) for cooking, and for whipping up fantastic salad dressings. However, do bear in mind that while they are good for us, these oils are still fats and therefore provide the same high amount of energy. Saturated fats are fine as long as we see them as a treat and use them in moderation.

Olive oil
= 1 tablespoon
Salad dressing = 1 shot glass
Butter = 1 postage stamp

The portions served in restaurants, takeaway outlets or that come in pre-packaged meals are often larger today than they used to be. By eating larger portions, we consume more calories, which in turn can lead to weight gain.

By avoiding “portion distortion” and being conscious of how much we’re eating as well as what we are eating, we’ll be better equipped to make healthier food decisions. If you’re used to eating larger portions of meat, fish or carbohydrates at meal times and feel like your plate is looking a little emptier than usual, up the goodness and add an extra portion of tasty veg to bulk out your meal.


While you’re eating, pay attention to how your body feels. Serve yourself smaller portions. This way, you’ll only need to eat more if you are actually hungry.

If you’re still hungry after a meal, you might just be thirsty. Make sure you drink enough water to stay hydrated.

Pre-packaged food can be misleading. It’s easy to assume that the amount of food given is the amount you should be eating. Don’t be fooled – always check the label to find out what the serving size is. For example, a 500ml bottle of a popular soft drink actually contains two servings.

For more information on portion sizes, visit nutrition.org.uk