Published: 09/16/2015

How to Right-Size Portions

Rampant portion distortion—particularly in restaurants and fast-food joints—has contributed to the burgeoning waistlines of American adults and children. Such outsize portions began to increase in the 1970s, rose dramatically in the 1980s and have continued to grow in tandem with increasing body weights1. Today, many people have no idea what a proper portion size looks like—especially when it comes to high-carb foods like pasta, French fries and rice—because they rarely see it.

The Research Is In?

Studies have shown that when people were served larger portions of soup, pasta or ice cream three days per week for one week, compared to what they were served the previous week, they ate almost 40 percent more of these foods from the larger servings2. Another study showed that when people purchased a larger portion of pasta in a cafeteria-style restaurant, they consumed 43 percent more calories of the pasta and 25 percent more calories in their overall meal3. In yet another study, people consumed 56 percent more calories when they were served the largest portion of a calorie-dense entr?e than when they were served the smallest portion of a less-calorie-dense entree4.

Not All You Can Eat

Some people mistakenly assume that they can eat as much as they want on Atkins—as long as they stay at their carb level. While it’s true that operating on a primarily fat metabolism confers satiety and appetite control, this doesn’t constitute permission to gorge. Whole foods—including protein foods—still need to be properly portioned. The bottom line: Even on Atkins, size matters. That’s why it’s smart to understand what a standard serving size really is and what it looks like. Here are some easy guidelines to help picture these portions:

Protein Portions?

We recommend meat, poultry, fish, tofu or other vegetarian protein source portions of 4–6 ounces at each meal. Tall men can have a much as 8 ounces. To stay on target, keep these visual cues in mind.

Amount Visual
1 oz. Small matchbook or remote car key
3 oz. Deck of cards, cell phone or bar of soap
6 oz. Box of matches
8 oz. Slim paperback book

Cheese, Fat and Condiment Portions

On Atkins, there seems to be a natural appetite response that guides how much fat to eat, but here are some tops. Use enough oil when sauteing to keep the food from sticking to the pan. Use about a tablespoon of oil to dress a small salad (with lemon juice or vinegar). A typical day’s intake of fat might include the following: 2 tablespoons of oil for dressing salads and cooking; 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 ounce cream, 2 ounces cheese, 2–3 eggs, 2–3 servings meat, poultry, fish or shellfish; 10 olives and/or 1/2 Haas avocado; 2 ounces nuts or seeds (after the first two weeks on Induction). Here are some visual cues:

Portion Object
1 oz./1 slice cheese 4 dice
1 tablespoon oil or condiment Ping-pong ball
2 tablespoons oil or condiment Golf ball

Vegetables and Fruits

To consume 12 –14 grams of Net Carbs as foundation vegetables, eat roughly four cups of salad greens and 2 cups of cooked vegetables, depending upon specific choices. The first fruits reintroduced are small portions of berries.

Portion Object
1 cup salad greens A clenched fist
1/2 cup cooked vegetables Scoop of ice cream or half a baseball
1/4 cup berries A child's clenched fist
1/2 cup berries A scoop of ice cream or half a baseball

Nuts and Seeds

A total of 2 ounces of nuts and seeds per day can be reintroduced after the first two weeks in Induction.

Portion Table
1 oz. 2 ping-pong balls