Healthy Eating - Portion Size
Amy Parker
Amy Parker

Healthy Eating - What’s on Your Plate?

by Amy Parker, RD

In our society a portion sizes have increased to the point where our dinner plates look more like platters. We expect more for our money and unfortunately that is leading to more for our waistlines as well. Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating clearly outlines what a portion is for each of the food groups and it’s less than you think! Let’s break down each of the food groups so we can see what we need.

Vegetables and Fruit

  • 1 serving = 1 medium sized carrot, apple, banana, tomato, etc., ½ cup 100% juice, ½ cup fresh, frozen or canned vegetable or fruit… at least 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables.
  • With whole pieces of fruit look for ones that are about the size of a tennis ball.
  • Remember fruit or vegetable juice counts but keep it to 1 cup per day. It is better to eat your veggies than drink them

Grain Products

  • 1 serving = 1 slice of bread, ½ cup rice, pasta or couscous, 30 g cold cereal, ¾ cup hot cereal, ½ bagel or flat bread.
  • Choose whole grains and brown at least half of the time.
  • The easy way to measure is by using your fist. A women’s fist tends to be 2 servings or 1 cup and a man’s fist is 3 servings or a cup and a half.

Milk and Alternatives

  • 1 serving= 1 cup milk or fortified soy beverage, ¾ cup yogurt or kefir, 50 grams of cheese.
  • For cheese remember to choose a lower fat cheese, less than 20% MF. And watch the serving size, it should be about the size of 2 9-volt batteries.
  • Drink skim, 1% or 2% milk every day. Have 2 cups of milk daily to meet your needs for Vitamin D.

Meat and Alternatives

  • 1 serving = 75 g of fish, poultry or lean meat, ¾ cup cooked legumes, ¾ cup tofu, 2 eggs, 2 Tbsp of peanut or nut butters, ¼ cup nuts and seeds.
  • This is a group where we tend to choose too much. A serving of meat should fit in the palm on your hand.
  • Choose meat alternatives often, not only are they lower in fat but they are less expensive as well.
  • 2 servings of fatty fish a week such as salmon, herring, sardines or trout will give your required amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

Putting it all together

Check out Canada’s Food Guide to determine how many servings of each group you need. It is broken down from ages 2 to 51+ and for males and females. Plan balanced meals that contain at least 3 out of 4 food groups. For example, a breakfast of whole grain cereal, milk and an orange provides a balanced meal. At lunch and dinner time divide up your plate appropriately to keep your portions healthy. Choose a plate that is the size of a Frisbee. Don’t fill a large plate right to the edge, keep food in the middle. Fill at least half your plate with vegetables. The other half is divided in quarters. One quarter for grains or potato and the other for meat and alternatives. You can accompany your meal with a fruit for dessert and a glass of milk if desired. Other foods, such as pies, cakes, donuts, soft drinks or alcohol are higher in fat, sugar and/ or salt and calories. These should be enjoyed only occasionally. To record your daily food intake and track your progress online, go to

About the Author:

Amy Parker is a Registered Dietitian who regularly writes food and nutrition articles. She graduated from the University of Alberta and completed a one year internship in the Calgary Health Region. She currently specializes in prenatal nutrition and is passionate about helping her clients have the healthiest babies possible. Her other areas of interest include weight loss, childhood obesity and healthy food that tastes good too!

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