Portion Sizes

Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide: What is it and why is it beneficial?

  • Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide promotes healthy eating for Canadians, including specific needs for children, teens and adults
  • Translates the evidenced based knowledge of health and nutrition into a manageable healthy eating pattern
  • Canada’s Food Guide emphasizes the importance of combining healthy eating and physical activity into everyday life
  • Following Canada’s Food Guide reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancers and osteoporosis
  • Canada’s Food Guide describes the amount of food people need based on gender and age and what type of food is part of a healthy eating pattern
  • Canada’s Food Guide targets eating food from all four food groups, in addition to added oils and fats
    • Vegetables and Fruit
    • Grain Products
    • Milk and Alternatives
    • Meat and Alternatives

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Some examples of helpful food guide serving sizes

Vegetables and Fruit
Food How much to have for one Food Guide serving Some helpful tips
Fresh, frozen, canned vegetables and fruit ½ cup (125ml) or 1 fruit

Frozen vegetables give you the same nutrients as fresh

Buy low sodium options and rinse well

Leafy vegetables

Cooked: ½ cup (125ml)

Raw: 1 cup (250ml)

Consider 1 handful is one serving
100% Juice ½ cup (125ml) 250ml juice box = 2 servings
Grain Products
Food How much to have for one Food Guide serving Some helpful tips
Bread 1 slice (35g)

The serving size on the Nutrition Facts Table may not be the same as one food guide serving

Some brands may list a serving as 2 slices, and another as 1

Flat breads ½ pita or ½ tortilla (10-inch)
Cooked rice, bulgur, pasta, couscous ½ cup (125ml) Be careful when eating out as this could be 2–3times the size

Hot: 175ml; ¾ cup

Cold: 30g

Depending on the cereal, 30g may be ½ cup or 1½ cups. Be sure to check the Nutrition Facts Table
Milk and Alternatives
Food How much to have for one Food Guide serving Some helpful tips
Milk or fortified soy beverage 1 cup (250ml) Choose skim, 1% or 2% milk
Yogurt or Kefir 175ml (¾ cup) Individual containers are usually 100ml, just under one serving
Cheese 1½ ounce (50g) Consider 1 serving to be the size of 2 thumbs
Meat and Alternatives
Food How much to have for one Food Guide serving Some helpful tips
Cooked fish, shellfish, poultry, lean meat 2½ ounces (75g or ½ cup) This is the size of the palm of your hand and is as thick as your baby finger
Cooked legumes (beans, lentils, peas) ¾ cup (175ml) Measure this amount cooked not dried
Tofu ¾ cup (175ml or 150g)
Eggs 2 eggs You can always have one egg and count it as half a serving
Peanut, soy or almond butter 3 tablespoons (30ml)
Shelled nuts and seeds ¼ cup (60ml) These are healthy but high in calories so be sure to choose raw and unsalted

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Some helpful tips to avoid eating large portions

  1. Use smaller serving utensils, cups, bowls and plates. This may encourage you to put less on your plate without noticing that you are eating less.
  2. Do not skip meals. Eat regularly to avoid overeating at your next meal or snack.
  3. Eat in a calm environment. Avoid having distractions (computer, TV, video games) as this may cause you to eat more without even noticing.
  4. Choose foods that are high in fiber to help keep you full for longer.

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Helpful hints for measuring portions

If you do not have a measuring cups or scales, use your hands or household tools to determine portion sizes.

Use the palm of your hand or a deck of cards for one serving of meat, chicken or fish.

open hand, showing the palm deck of cards

Use your fist or a computer mouse for one serving of pasta, rice or a medium potato

closed fist computer mouse

Use a tennis ball for one serving of yogurt, hot cereal or tofu

tennis ball

Use a thumb tip for one serving (1 teaspoon= 5ml) of butter or oil

a thumb

Use two thumb tips for one serving of cheese

a thumb a second thumb

Use both balms of your hand for two servings of vegetables

two open hands

The Plate Model

illustration of plate model

You can also use the plate model, where:

  • ½ of your plate contains vegetables (at least two kinds)
  • ¼ of your plate contains grains and starches (e.g. potato, rice, corn, pasta)
  • ¼ of your plate contains meat and alternatives (e.g. fish, lean meat, chicken, beans, lentils)
  • You have milk and alternatives, and fruit on the side

For more information, please have a look at our Clinic's Transition factsheet - healthy eating

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