Here’s What the Portion Size of Pasta Actually Looks Like

Forget the measuring cups and spoons—the easiest portioning tool is in the palm of your hand, literally!

With supersize meals at fast-foods, and even sit-down restaurants (we’re lookin’ at you, all-you-can-eat buffets), it can be hard to know exactly what a portion size is really supposed to be. But digging out measuring cups, spoons and scales is kind of a hassle, and it can be hard to picture the size of a deck of cards when faced with a whole selection of meat options. Good news! There’s an easier way to portion your food, and it’s always nearby: your hand! It’s important to properly portion out all foods—even healthy foods. There can be too much of a good thing when watching your waistline. Use this guide as a rule of thumb for portioning out your food.


The size of your palm is a good estimate for 3-4 ounces of protein, like meat, fish, poultry and tofu.


A closed fist is equivalent to about 1 cup or 8 fluid ounces. This can be used to measure one serving of vegetables, including broccoli, spinach or carrots, or 8 ounces of a beverage, like water or milk. It’s also equivalent to a double serving of ice cream! (Treat yourself with this homemade vanilla ice cream recipe.)

Cupped Hand

Equivalent to about ½ cup, a cupped hand is perfect for measuring carbs, like grains, starches and fruits. Use this handy chart to determine a recommended serving of pasta. Cup both hands together to measure out 1 ounce of snack foods, like chips or pretzels.


The size of your thumb is a good way to estimate portions of fats, like oils, butters and seeds. It’s equivalent to one tablespoon, so double it for a serving of peanut butter.


The space from the knuckle to the tip of your finger is about one teaspoon, the perfect amount of butter for your toast.

Of course, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule—everyone’s hands are different sizes and may be proportionally different to their bodies. But paying attention to portion sizes is important, and this is a great way to start. Give it a try and adjust to your needs!

Here are some more ways to measure without measuring cups.

Recommended Servings

Before we get into using your hand as a guide, do you know how many servings of each food group an adult needs? Here’s a look at the daily recommendations from the United States Department of Agriculture. These ranges are for adults, and can vary depending on gender and age.

Fruit: 1½-2 cups

Vegetables: 2-3 cups

Grains: 5-8 ounces

Protein: 5-6 ounces

Dairy: 3 cups

Fats: Up to 7 teaspoons

If you’re looking for more portion control ideas, check out our tips to begin meal planning.

Alexa Hackfort
Alexa is a writer who believes there’s always room for ice cream. Based in Milwaukee, she enjoys exploring the city, tackling new recipes and planning her next trip.