Diabetes Portion Control Tips and Tricks

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Diabetes portion control can be best managed by learning and applying the various food measurements. Following are some simple ways to learn what a diabetic portion is and looks like.

Diabetic Portions by Measurement

Diabetic portions will vary depending on the food group (grains, fruit, meat, etc), and the specific food. There are some consistencies among them, however, that simplify remembering all of them.

When it comes to grains, beans and starchy vegetables, the measurement 1/2 cup is common. It applies to foods such as cooked rice, cooked pasta, potatoes, corn, lentils, cooked dry beans, peas and lentils.

With meats, the measurement 3 ounces is prevalent. Some of the meats in this measurement group are cooked meat, cooked fish, and cooked poultry.

Vegetables can vary some, but it helps to think about how filling each food is. More filling usually translates to a smaller portion, whereas less filling allows a larger portion. As an example, a serving of green salad would be 1 cup, while cooked broccoli would be 1/2 cup. A serving of tomato juice would is 3/4 cup.

Fruits have natural sugars in them, so the portions may seem smaller in comparison to vegetables. A serving of fresh fruit is 1/2 cup, but raisins are only 1/4 cup. For whole fruit, 1 medium sized fruit equals one serving.

Recognizing Portion Sizes by Sight

There are several ways to recognize healthy diabetic portion sizes for various foods. The State of Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services provides an illustrated guide that outlines food sizes by measurement, such as 1/2 cup or 1 medium. It also provides illustrations to help visualize what the servings look like, such as half of a baseball or a deck of cards. Knowing the measurements as well as what the portion would look like is helpful in maintaining healthy diabetic portion control.

A reference guide created by the Lilly company offers a life-sized image of a plate with diabetic portions of cooked meat, red potatoes and mixed vegetables on it. You will note is that while the plate is normal in size, the portions do not fill up the plate. On the guide, each section is noted with tips about portion size. For grains and starchy foods, a good portion size is roughly 1/4 of the plate. Meat is also 1/4 of the plate. The remaining half of the plate is contains non-starchy vegetables.

Lilly also has an printed guide with more details related to foods and measurements, hosted by University of Virginia Health System in pdf form.

Release Your Inner Child

The American Diabetes Association, recommends using child-sized portions. This tactic can be especially helpful when eating out or when buying convenience foods.

Diabetics should avoid most fast foods and convenience foods, as many are high in carbohydrates and fats. If you do choose to eat these foods, eat only child-sized portions to help maintain a healthy diet.


Diabetes Portion Size Guidelines. State of Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. https://www.dhss.mo.gov/diabetes/portionsizeguidelines.pdf

Diabetes Expert Stresses Portion Control, Exercise. Angela Ward. Longview News-Journal. August 12, 2010. American Diabetes Association. https://www.diabetes.org/news-research/news/diabetes-in-the-news/diabetes-expert-stresses.html