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Here’s How to Portion Control Your Food with Your Palm and Fingers, says Study

Tim Boyer's picture
Portion control made easier with "finger" method.

Are you tired of trying to measure everything out for counting calories while on a diet? Researchers have developed an easy-to-use method to help people estimate surprisingly accurate portion sizes using only their hands to simplify dieting using portion control.


According to a news release from the University of Sydney, using your palm and fingers is a reasonably accurate way to gauge the dimensions of foods and glasses of liquids while exercising portion control when dieting. In combination with some geometric formulas for volume and particular food item densities, you can achieve a good estimate of the weight of your food and how much you are actually consuming.

Here’s how portion control and other tips can help you get French-Slim.

"I completed a food diary for a week and that's when I realized how hard it would be for people to accurately estimate the true amount of food on their plates, particularly for difficult-to-measure foods like lasagna. It struck me I had no accessible or reliable way of doing so," said Ms. Gibson, who is also an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and first author of the study that is part of her doctoral thesis at the University of Sydney.

Here are some YouTube videos on how the hands can be used in portion control:

The Finger Width Method Study

In the study, Ms. Gibson and colleagues recruited 67 study participants who were asked to estimate the portion sizes of 42 pre-weighed foods and liquids after being provided with an explanation of each of the hand methods―namely finger width, fist, and tips (thumb or index finger). The hand estimates were then compared to typical kitchen methods such as using measuring cups and spoons as well as subjective “guesstimating.”

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What the researchers found was that, “…the 'finger width' method was found to be more accurate than household measures and size descriptions for estimating food portions. Eighty percent of food sizes assessed with the 'finger width' method were within 25 percent of their true weight, compared with 29 percent of those estimated using the household method.”

However, the researchers do caution that the “finger width” method is not suitable for all foods, and that it should be seen as a complementary, rather than a stand-alone portion size estimation method.

"While more research is needed to fine-tune the technique, I think there's real potential for this tool to be incorporated into electronic platforms such as smartphone applications so that the calculations are automated and estimating food intake on-the-go is more accurate," stated Ms. Gibson for the University of Sydney news release.

For graphics about how food can be measured using the “finger width” method, the study is available free online with more details about how this method can be useful to dieters.


University of Sydney news release “Help at hand for people watching their weight

Accuracy of hands v. household measures as portion size estimation aids” Journal of Nutrition Science (2016), vol. 5, e29, Alice A. Gibson et al.