Portion Control – How Much is Too Much?


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Since losing fifty pounds after college, I’ve learned the importance of nutrition in achieving my fitness goals.  For years, I would work out five days a week with very few results.  It wasn’t until I started focusing on my meal plan that I finally started making grounds in the results’ department.  I believe that nutrition determines 80 percent of how you look and feel. It took me several years to discover this, so I’d like to share my knowledge with you in hopes that you will learn more quickly than I did.

When it comes to portions, your body can store or hold fat if you overeat any macronutrient, whether it be protein, carbohydrates or fats.  The key is to eat enough to fuel your activities and meet your goals.  If you are unsure of how to structure your meals, I would recommend choosing a lean protein, complex carbohydrate and vegetable at each meal.  It is also important to add healthy fats into your diet as well.  As a safe starting point, I would recommend eating the following portions:

  • Proteins: one handful-sized serving
    Examples of lean protein sources include: egg whites, chicken breast, extra-lean       turkey, lean beef, fat free cottage cheese, tofu, greek yogurt, white fish
  • Complex Carbohydrates: one fist-sized serving
    Complex carbohyrdate sources include: oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, whole       wheat or Ezekial bread, beans, wheat or corn tortillas, rice cakes, potatoes,       yams
  • Vegetables: two handfuls-sized serving
    Vegetable sources include: asparagus, green beans, squash, cucumbers,       zucchini, spinach, lettuce, carrots
  • Healthy fats: one small palm-sized serving
    Healthy fat sources include: avocado, olive oil, almonds, cashews, walnuts,       natural peanut butter

I have experienced great results from eating these portion sizes about five to seven times a day with a meal frequency of every three hours.  The meal frequency is very important when determining your success because it can increase your metabolism and keep blood sugar levels constant.  I aim to eat about 200-300 calories per meal.

Treat fruit as a carbohydrate source at a meal.  For a complete meal option, add a protein source, such as greek yogurt, to eat along with your fruit choice. To keep your weight loss goals in sight, it might be a good idea to monitor your sugar intake for a week or two, just to get an idea of how much sugar you consume on a daily basis.  It’s wise to keep your sugar intake under about 35 grams per day.  I do not count the naturally-occuring sugar I consume in fruits or vegetables.  However, do count the sugar found in coffee creamer, milk, yogurt, bread and all other foods or drinks you consume.  Your findings might surprise you.

Personally, I consider a cheat meal to be any food source that does not give me all of the nutrients my body needs.  Sushi is a good example of a cheat meal.  I am a big fan of sushi but often times the sushi I order does not contain the full amounts of protein and complex carbohydrates needed to get the results I want and to fuel my activities for the day.  However, I do plan about one cheat meal per week to prevent myself from feeling restricted while I move in the direction of my goals.

We are only human and no one person can eat 100% “on” all the time.  You should enjoy your life and your food, but start to think of food as “fuel” versus “entertainment.”  When my life centered around food as entertainment, I was fifty pounds heavier.  The key is to find your balance and go with it.  What is right for your body might not be right for someone else’s.  I have friends and family members who can get away with a lot more junk food and alcohol than I can- every body is different.

If you really want to take your body and fitness goals to the next level, it might be a worthwhile investment to see a nutritionist to help you build your exact portions with less trial and error.  I would recommend researching registered dieticians and/or certified nutritionists in your area.

I have found what works for me and I am happy to live a healthy moderation- I want the same for you!

Eat clean and follow your dreams.

Kelsey Byers

About the columnist:
Kelsey Byers is the author of Eat Clean and Follow Your Dreams, available on  She has a fifty pound weight-loss success story and inspires thousands of people daily through social networking.  She prides herself in offering helpful tips on nutrition and exercise to help others make healthy lifestyle changes, just as she’s done.

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