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Portion sizes and diabetes

It isn't always easy to get portion sizes right, and it can make managing your weight and blood glucose levels more difficult. Whether you've got Type 1 or Type 2, it's good to stay clued up on carb portion sizes. We've created a guide with some tips and tricks to help you along the way.

Getting your portion sizes right

Using everyday items and household utensils to get your portion sizes right can be really useful. It’s an easy way to visualise what a portion should look like.

We’ve produced portion-size guides for popular foods from the five food groups that help to make up a healthy, balanced diet.

Remember, everybody’s needs are different so the number of portion sizes you need is individual – and your weight, gender, body composition and activity levels all make a difference. Your dietitian will be able to advise you on the amount of portions that are right for you.

Starchy food

Includes rice, pasta, bread and chapattis for energy. Choose wholegrain where possible. One portion is:

  • Cooked rice = 2 heaped tablespoons
  • Half a jacket potato = 1 computer mouse
  • Breakfast cereal = 3 tablespoons
  • Boiled pasta or cooked noodles = 3 heaped tablespoons

Dairy food

Includes milk, cheese and yoghurt for calcium, which is essential for strong bones and teeth. One portion is:

  • Semi or skimmed milk = one medium glass (200ml or 1/3 pint)
  • Hard cheese = small matchbox (30g)
  • Reduced or low-fat cream cheese = two small matchboxes (60g)
  • Low-sugar, low-fat fromage frais/yoghurt = 125g pot

Meat, fish, eggs, pulses, beans and nuts

These foods are high in protein, essential to build and replace muscle. One portion is:

  • Cooked lean meat (eg chicken, beef or pork) = deck of playing cards (60–90g)
  • Beans and pulses (eg red kidney beans, butter beans, chickpeas or lentils) = 4 tablespoons
  • Nuts or peanut butter (unsalted) = golf ball (2 level tablespoons)
  • Quorn, tofu or soya = snooker ball (120g)


Provides you with important vitamins, minerals and fibre that help protect you against stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease and certain cancers. Part of your five-a-day plan. One portion is:

  • One handful of grapes
  • One small glass (150ml) of fruit juice (limit to one portion a day)
  • Two small satsumas, clementines or tangerines
  • Two medium plums
  • Two tinned pineapple rings or 12 chunks in natural juice
  • One heaped tbsp raisins, sultanas, currants or dried cranberries
  • Seven strawberries


An important source of fibre, minerals and vitamins, and an important part of any five-a-day plan. One portion is:

  • Three heaped tablespoons cooked veg (eg carrots, peas, sweetcorn, mixed veg)
  • One medium onion
  • One large sweet potato
  • Two broccoli spears
  • One heaped tablespoon tomato purée
  • One piece of cucumber (5cm)
  • Four large mushrooms or 14 button mushrooms
  • Three heaped tablespoons beans or pulses (eg kidney beans, chickpeas or lentils)

Foods high in fat and sugar

You can enjoy foods from this group as an occasional treat, but they will add extra calories so it’s best to keep them to a minimum, especially if you are trying to lose weight. One portion is:

  • Butter/margarine = one dice (5g)
  • Low fat spread = two dice (10g)
  • Unsaturated oil (eg sunflower, rapeseed, olive oil) = 1 teaspoon
  • Chocolate = one fun size bar

Top tips for managing portion sizes

  • Use smaller plates and bowls to help make your portion sizes look bigger.
  • Weigh food if you find it hard to gauge portion sizes. Foods like muesli, pasta and rice can be difficult to get right at first, so try using the same container to measure out certain foods.
  • Be mindful of what you’re eating. It takes about 20 minutes before your brain registers that you’re full, so eat slowly, putting your knife and fork down in between mouthfuls.
  • Download My weight-loss planner (PDF, 534KB) as a way to monitor the food you're eating, including portion size.
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