Portion Control for Cancer Prevention: The Four-Step Challenge

measuring cup portions

One quick look at your plate and you can tell if you’re eating a meal that will help you lower cancer risk. It’s simple. If at least two-thirds of your plate is filled with plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, and one-third or less contains fish, poultry, meat and dairy foods, that’s the proportion part of the New American Plate model. But portion size is equally important. Healthy, cancer-protective foods can be low or high in calories, so you need to know just how much of these foods fit on your plate.

“Practicing and Picturing Portions” is one of the most popular challenges in AICR’s free, online weight loss program, The New American Plate Challenge.

Here are four steps we encourage the Challengers to use for portion control:

  1. Learn what AICR’s suggested portions are for various foods and beverages using the AICR Portions on Your Plate chart below.
  2. Get out your measuring cups, spoons and food scale. Measure out foods you commonly eat and see what a portion looks like on your plate.
  3. Use familiar items as references for serving sizes. For example, ½ cup of cooked brown rice looks like half a baseball and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter looks like ½ golf ball.
  4. Repeat for one week until you can remember what these portions look like on your plate. This can come in especially useful when eating out, restaurant portion sizes may be a surprise.

portion guide

How many portions are right for you?**

Food  1 Portion  Amount
 Cooked non-starchy vegetables (such as broccoli, carrots, greens) 1 cup 1 1/2- 2 portions daily  
  Fruit 1/2 cup  3 - 4 portions daily (Limit 100% fruit juice to ½ cup daily) 
 Starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, peas) and whole grains (bread, rice, pasta): one-half cup Women: 1-2 portions per meal
 Men: 2-3 portions per meal
 Cooked beans, such as kidney, chickpea or lentils 1/2 cup 1 portion at least 2 times per week (more if vegetarian) 
 Nuts 1/4 cup 1/2 - 1 portion per day
 Poultry, seafood, meat, cooked 3 ounces cooked  Women: about 2 portions daily
 Men: 2 - 2 1/2 portions daily
 Healthy oils (olive, canola etc) 1 teaspoon  Women: 5-6 portions daily
 Men: 6-7 portions daily

**Amounts based on 2015 US Dietary Guidelines, using daily calorie range of 1600 to 2200.

You can sign up for the New American Plate Challenge, 12 Weeks to a Healthier You here.

Updated 12/2018

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