Sleekgeek Portion Control Guide

Portion Control and Serving Sizes Simplified

At Sleekgeek, we don’t normally recommend calorie counting.

No, not because we think it doesn’t work (it does) or that calories don’t matter (they most definitely do).

It’s just that we don’t think most people need or want to do math every time they sit down to eat a meal.

We’re sure you will agree that it’s not fun to deal with measuring cups, food scales, calorie and kilojoule conversions, and a plethora of phone apps every time you want to have breakfast with your family or go on a hot date at a restaurant.

Calorie counting is an incredibly useful tool, especially for short-term goals, but it’s not something that everyone wants to (or needs to) do to live a healthy life.

That’s why we’re going to teach you about an incredibly simple method of managing your calorie intake and portion control without too much fuss or effort.

Just like the Sleekgeek Food List and the Sleekgeek Healthy Meal Template, this portion control guide is a fantastic starting point for anyone who is not sure what to do.

All you need is your hand

This is a fantastic portion control system designed by Precision Nutrition.

We use it ourselves here at Sleekgeek in our own daily lives, as well as in our Sleekgeek Healthy Habit Coaching Program with great success.

Now, we want to share it with you too.

It lets you simplify portion control by using your fist, palm, cupped hand, and thumb as measuring tools.

Why this works so well:

  • It’s portable. Most people bring their hands with them wherever they go.
  • It’s scalable. Bigger people need more food and tend to have bigger hands, smaller people need less food and tend to have smaller hands.
  • It’s customisable. Simply add or remove servings depending on your needs such as an extra serving of carbs for your post-workout meal or swap out a serving of carbs for an extra serving of veg or fat for a lower-carb meal.

Here’s how it works:

Using the foods from the Sleekgeek Food List and Sleekgeek Healthy Meal Template, you use your fist, palm, cupped hand, and thumb to measure your protein, vegetables, carbs, and fats respectively.

  • Your palm = a serving a protein.
  • Your fist = a serving of veg.
  • Your cupped hand = a serving of carbohydrates.
  • Your thumb = a serving of fat.

As a good place to start, women get 1 serving of each and men get 2 servings of each per meal in the context of 3-4 meals per day.

We will explain how to customise these guidelines to better fit your personal needs.

Protein:

For protein-dense foods like meat, fish, eggs, etc, use a palm-sized serving.

  • Women can aim to have 1 palm-sized portion with each meal.
  • Men can aim to have 2 palm-sized portions with each meal.

Note: A palm-sized portion is the same thickness and diameter as your palm:

Source: Precision Nutrition

Vegetables:

For vegetables like broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, onions, etc, use a fist-sized serving.

  • Women can aim to have 1 fist-sized portion with each meal.
  • Men can aim to have 2 fist-sized portions with each meal.

Note: A fist-sized portion is the same thickness and diameter as your fist.

Vegetables are also classified as carbohydrates, but for the purpose of this system we want you to think of fibrous, leafy, not so carbohydrate-dense vegetables as “vegetables”, and the more carbohydrate-dense vegetables (like potato, butternut, pumpkin, etc, as “carbohydrates”).

Source: Precision Nutrition

Carbohydrates:

For carbohydrate-dense foods like starchy veg, whole grains, legumes, and fruits, use a cupped-hand serving.

  • Women can aim to have 1 cupped-hand sized portion with each meal.
  • Men can aim to have 2 cupped-hand sized portions with each meal.

Note: A cupped-hand portion is an amount that would fill your palm when you cup your hand.

You are allowed to customise these guidelines according to your needs. Athletes might want more carbohydrates, while others people (such as those doing Paleo / REBOOT) might want to eat almost exclusively starchy veg as their carbohydrates or even reduce their carbohydrate portions and bump up their veg and/or fat portions instead. We will explain more on customising macronutrient ratios further down.

Source: Precision Nutrition

Fats:

For fat-dense foods like nuts, seeds, oils, butters, avocado, coconut, olive, etc, use a thumb-sized serving.

  • Women can aim to have 1 thumb-sized portion with each meal.
  • Men can aim to have 2 thumb-sized portions with each meal.

Note: This may seem like a very small serving size, but keep in mind fats are very calorie-dense and can go a long way.

If you are cooking something then your fat serving most likely will be taken up with cooking fat like coconut oil or butter. If you are eating a salad, it might be your olive oil dressing.

If you want to have half an avocado with lunch that might be a bigger portion size but you can compensate by not having fats in one of your other meals.

If you are on a low-carb diet then you would typically increase your vegetable and fat portion sizes while decreasing your carbohydrate portion sizes.

Source: Precision Nutrition

Guidelines for men and women

When it comes to serving sizes per meal, a good place to start is:

  • Women aim for 1 serving of each (protein, veg, carbs, and fats)
  • Men aim forr 2 servings of each (protein, veg, carbs, and fats)

While men and women do have different calorie needs based on their average size, metabolism, hormones, and things like that, it’s important to note that this serving size difference isn’t perfect.

This is just a starting point.

Men don’t necessarily need twice as much food as women, and women don’t necessarily need half as much food as men.

Some men may need less than 2 servings of everything with each meal and some women may need more than 1 serving of everything with each meal.

Most, in fact, will fall somewhere in between with getting more or less of some food portions (like veg or fats, for example) while not changing others (like protein and carbs, for example).

We will guide you below on how to customise these guidelines.

Eat 3 to 4 meals per day:

These guidelines are based on the recommendation that you eat 3-4 meals per day and no snacks.

However, you can eat more or less meals if you want. Or even include some snacks.

You can simply divide up the total number of recommended servings for each food group per day by the number of meals or snacks that you find convenient to eat.

Using these guidelines, each day in total:

  • Women will get 3-4 servings of protein, 3-4 servings of veg, 3-4 servings of carbs, and 3-4 servings of fat.
  • Men will get 6-8 servings of protein, 6-8 servings of veg, 6-8 servings of carbs, and 6-8 servings of fat.

So if you want to eat only 2 larger meals or 6 smaller meals, it’s up to you.

Or maybe 3 meals and then 2 snacks that equal your 4th meal.

An example

Remember the first meal example we gave in the Sleekgeek Healthy Meal Template?

It was a super simple grilled chicken + steamed broccoli + pre-cooked rice + sliced avocado.

Healthy Meal Template 1

For women, the meal might look like:

  • Protein = 1 palm-sized serving of chicken.
  • Veg = 1 fist-sized serving of broccoli.
  • Carb = 1 cupped-hand serving of rice.
  • Fat = 1 thumb-sized serving of avocado.

For men, the meal might look like:

  • Protein = 2 palm-sized servings of chicken.
  • Veg = 2 fist-sized servings of broccoli.
  • Carb = 2 cupped-hand servings of rice.
  • Fat = 2 thumb-sized servings of avocado.

However, some women might need more than that.

And, some men might need less than that depending on their goals and level of physical activity.

So a customised meal for a woman who wants to eat a bit more veg to fill them up and more fat to increase their calorie intake might look like:

  • Protein = 1 palm-sized serving of chicken.
  • Veg = 2 fist-sized servings of broccoli.
  • Carb = 1 cupped-hand serving of rice.
  • Fat = 2 thumb-sized servings of avocado.

And a customised meal for a man who wants to eat a bit less carbs as he isn’t very physically active or wants to follow a lower-carb diet might look like:

  • Protein = 2 palm-sized servings of chicken.
  • Veg = 2 fist-sized servings of broccoli.
  • Carb = 1 cupped-hand serving of rice.
  • Fat = 2 thumb-sized servings of avocado.

This is just a starting point

We cannot stress this enough: This is just a starting point!

The great thing about this system is that it is simple and easy to use. The fist, palm, cupped-hand, and thumb serving-sizes are useful to help you eyeball serving sizes for various foods and help you keep your calories in balance without much hassle.

However, with this freedom comes the responsibility of self-experimentation. You do need to take responsibility for how much you eat, measure whether it’s actually working or not, and then adjust if necessary.

You will need to adjust these recommendations:

You WILL need to adjust these recommendations based on:

  • Meal frequency (how many meals or snacks you eat in a day).
  • Activity levels (how active you are on a day-to-day basis).
  • Macronutrient ratios (whether you prefer a lower or higher carb diet).

When you calculate out rough calorie estimates using these guidelines across 3-4 meals it works out to:

  • 1,125 calories (3 meals) – 1,500 calories (4 meals) for women.
  • 2,250 calories (3 meals) – 3,000 calories (4 meals) for men.

As we said earlier under “Guidelines for Men and Women“, some women may need more than 1 serving of everything and some men may need less than 2 servings of everything.

If you want to get a rough estimate of how many calories you should be eating, check out this calculator here.

Meal frequency:

Meal frequency is something that gets overcomplicated way too often.

Some say eating 6 meals a day will speed up your metabolism and help you burn fat (it doesn’t, although it has some other benefits) or that Intermittent Fasting will melt your belly fat (it’s not all that it’s hyped up to be either, but still has its uses).

There are pros and cons for eating any number of meals a day. Ultimately the best meal frequency is one that is easy to stick to and helps you reach your goals.

To keep it really simple, we recommend eating either:

  • 3 meals, or
  • 4 meals, or
  • 3 meals + a small snack or two.

You will need to figure out which works best for you.

We wish the guidelines were more black and white. How cool would that be? “Just do this, and BOOM! You are at your goal weight!” But we know this doesn’t happen in reality.

It’s going to take some time to find out what works for you, and then possibly even some adjustments in the future based on how your goals, body, and levels of physical activity change.

The good news is that you can now use these guidelines as a starting point, and then adjust your plan based on your own personal needs and goals.

For example:

  • If you are trying to lose weight, you will probably want to eat only 3 meals a day using these guidelines.
  • If you are trying to gain weight, you will probably want to eat up to 4 meals a day (or even more) using these guidelines.
  • If you are trying to maintain weight, you should find what the most amount of food is you can eat without gaining weight.

The frequency is nothing special, it’s more just guidelines in terms of total amount of food consumed throughout the day.

Activity levels:

Depending on your activity levels, you may well find that the basic starting point is either too little or too much food.

We suggest that you try this approach consistently for about a week and see how it goes. Keep track of how hungry you feel and take note of any changes in weight or how your clothes fit you.

If it works well, great! If you feel waaaaay too hungry, try increasing one or two of your portions in some of your meals. If you feel stuffed or aren’t losing weight (if that’s what you desire) then try decreasing one or two of your portions in some of your meals.

You may also find that on days that you are more active (gym, running, hiking, playing sports, lots of walking, etc) you might need to eat an additional meal or snack, whereas on days that you are more sedentary you don’t need to eat quite as much. This is where you can alternate between the 3 meal or 4 meal guidelines.

Likewise, if you are very active then you may also find that you need to increase your food intake (typically your carbohydrates) around intense workouts, and then decrease it again on rest days.

This may sound scary, but trust me, it’s not. It’s just a new responsibility – and we all know new responsibilities can always be a bit daunting at first but it means you are getting out of your comfort zone and growing. It will become easier over time as you get better at it until it feels completely normal.

One of the best skills you can learn is to experiment and see what works for you.

People who completely freak out if they aren’t told EXACTLY what to eat, down to the smallest of details, are typically the people who do not have much long-term success. They’re either “on” or “off” their rigid plan with no room for something in-between.

On the other hand, those who are brave enough to experiment and create a meal plan that fits their unique lifestyle are more likely to make a comfortable and sustainable lifestyle change that becomes effortless and brings them continued long-term success.

Macronutrient ratios:

[A quick primer on “macros” or macronutrients – There are three main macronutrients that we consume: Protein, Carbs, and Fats. You may be wondering about Vegetables which typically fall under Carbohydrates, however, in the Sleekgeek guidelines we have separated them into their own category for practical purposes.]

“That’s a LOT of carbohydrates and not much fat!?!?!” (common initial reaction)

We find that highly active people tend to need a little bit more carbohydrates in their diet to help fuel their performance.

However, if you are a more sedentary person or just feel more comfortable eating a lower-carb diet (yes, we know Banting/LCHF has had a large influence), then you are welcome to replace some or even all of your carbohydrate portions with more fat and veggies.

So, instead of having 2 cupped hands (men) or 1 cupped hand (women), you could try half of that, or only with some meals such as after a workout (earn those carbs!) and increase your number of fat servings instead.

Some people also find that they prefer to eat more protein because it keeps them fuller for longer, it boosts their metabolism, and it supports their health and fitness goals (such as building muscle). In this case, adding an extra serving of protein such as a protein shake or opting for more protein-dense carbohydrate sources such as legumes and lentils is a useful tactic.

On the other hand, others find themselves preferring to eat less protein or at least less meat. In that case you could opt for more vegetarian sources of protein such as lentils and legumes which are typically more carb-dense or more fat-dense sources of protein such as eggs and fatty fish.

Refer to the Sleekgee Food List for a list of protein, veg, carb, and fat sources.


What to do now?

Now it’s time to put this all into practice.

  • Step 1) Create a meal using the Sleekgeek Healthy Meal Template.
    If you are still not confident enough, try making one of the very simple meal examples that we gave when explaining the Healthy Meal Template.
  • Step 2) Give it a try with just one of your meals today.
    Start with the basic guidelines of 1 serving of each for women and 2 servings of each for men. Don’t worry about accidentally eating a little bit too little or a little bit too much on your first try, slightly more or slightly less food in one meal won’t have a major impact on things in the long run. In fact if you do it mindfully, it can actually be an excellent lesson in appetite and hunger awareness.
  • Step 3) Practice and learn.
    Pay attention to how your experiment goes. You can then take that experience and decide whether or not you want to increase or decrease the number of servings you give yourself in your next meal.  We know this can feel overwhelming, but it’s actually really easy and with a bit of practice you will quickly become a pro at it. Before you know it, you will be able to adapt your portion control strategies on the fly based on how you are feeling, what foods you are eating, and how active you are.
  • Step 5) Share with the community.
    We’ve created a discussion thread here in the Sleekgeek Facebook Group where we would love it if you shared your experience using these portion control guidelines and any questions you might have.

What’s up next?

Up next is our first official Healthy Habit: Eating Slowly.

This is where we teach you one of the most effective ways to become more in-tune with your emotional and physical sensations, using that to help you gain better control over your eating habits.

If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for the Sleekgeek Health Revolution Newsletter so we can keep you up to date.


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