Portion sizes

It is important to be aware of portion sizes as too much or too little of any type of food can increase our risk of health problems.

This is because the body may be getting too much or too little of what it needs to stay healthy. This Food Fact Sheet will provide an overview of recommended portion sizes of typical foods. As every person is different, the recommended number of portions for each food will vary, but this sheet provides a good place to get you started.

In this fact sheet:


Carbohydrates – what is a portion?

What is a portion?
1 medium slice of bread
Pasta (boiled) 2-3 tablespoons
Rice (boiled) 2-3 tablespoons
2 egg sized new potatoes (boiled)
1 medium baked potato (with skin)*
Breakfast cereal: 3 tablespoons
Porridge oats: 3 tablespoons

* Potatoes do not contribute to one of your 5 a day, however sweet potatoes, parsnips, swedes and turnips do.

TOP TIP:

Choose wholegrains or higher fibre versions with less added fat, salt and sugar. For more information, see the BDA Food Factsheet on ‘Wholegrains’. Be mindful that the carbohydrate portions provided contain different amounts of carbohydrate and calories.

Dairy – what is a portion?

Type of dairy food Portion size in grams or mililitres (ml) What does this look like?
Milk 200ml (1/3 pint) 1 glass
Calcium fortified soya alternatives 200ml (1/3 pint) 1 glass
Yoghurt 125g 1 standard pot/ 3 tbsp
Cheese (hard) 30g A matchbox size piece

TOP TIP:

Try to always choose lower fat and lower sugar options where possible.

Protein – what is a portion?

Animal Protein Amount in grams (g)
Cooked meat (beef/pork/ lamb/mince/chicken/turkey) 60g-90g
Cooked white fish (cod or plaice) or canned fish 140g
Cooked oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) 140g
2 eggs 120g
Plant Protein
4 tablespoons of baked beans 150g
4 tablespoons of beans (kidney beans/butterbeans/ black eyed beans 150g
4 tablespoons of pulses (lentils/chickpeas) 150g
4 tablespoons of soya/ tofu, vegetable based meat alternative 100g
1 tablespoon/handful of nuts or peanut butter 30g

TOP TIP:

Eat more beans and pulses, and two portions of sustainably sourced fish per week, one of which is oily. Eat less red and processed meat.

Fruit and vegetables – what is a portion?

What is a portion Amount in grams (g)
1 apple/pear/orange/banana 80g
A handful (10-12) grapes/ berries 80g
2 plums/apricots/kiwis/ satsumas 80g
1 small handful/ 1 tablespoon of dried fruit (eg. raisins or sultanas) 30g
3 heaped tablespoons of peas/carrots/sweetcorn/mixed vegetables 80g
1/2 pepper/1 medium tomato/ 1 medium parsnip 80g

TOP TIP:

Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.

Oils and spreads – what is a portion?

Type of oil/spread Amount in grams (g)
1 teaspoon of butter or spread 5g
1 teaspoon of oil 3g

TOP TIP:

Keep to a minimum/small amounts of oils and spreads and measure out. Opt for unsaturated fats.

Mixing food types and portions

People will often have more than one portion of one food type at each meal.

Based on the portion sizes above:

  • a sandwich with 2 slices of bread with 2 teaspoons of butter (1 on each slice) would be 2 portions of carbohydrates and 2 portions of fats
  • a meal including meat or fish plus beans or pulses would be 2 portions of protein
  • a meal containing broccoli and carrots would be 2 portions of vegetables.

Eat_well_guide

The Eatwell Guide (above) shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet.

Further information

We also have Food Fact Sheets available on a range of topics including Weight Loss, Malnutrition, Alcohol, getting your 5-a day and general healthy eating as well as a range of medical conditions.

Download this information as a PDF

Information sources


This Food Factsheet is a public service of The British Dietetic Association (BDA) intended for information only. It is not a substitute for proper medical diagnosis or dietary advice given by a dietitian.

If you need to see a dietitian, visit your GP for a referral or a private dietitian.

Written by Sammie Gill, Dietitian. Reviewed by Sian Porter and Lucy Turnbull, Dietitians.

© BDA September 2016. Review date September 2019.