The Helping Hand Approach to Eating (Quantity)

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at or at your favorite library or bookstore.

The Helping-Hand Approach to Eating

Quantity: How Much to Eat
At the same time that you are evaluating the quality aspects of your food choices, you should also be considering the second part of the nutrition equation: quantity (otherwise known as “portion control”). If you look at the graphics of the Helping Hand, you see five images:

1. a wide-open hand (representing fruits/vegetables)

2. a closed fist (concentrated carbohydrates, or starches)

3. a palm (protein)

4. an “OK” sign (added fat)

5. “metabolic controller” capsules, which represent your dietary supplements to control biochemical balance

These graphics are a simple way to help you visualize controlling the “quantity” part of your diet without really “counting” calories. They also help you remember to eat an appropriate amount of food to restore biochemical balance and improve vigor.

The Helping Hand works like this:

Fruits and Vegetables (except potatoes, which count as concentrated carbs, or “starches”)
Choose a quantity of fruits and vegetables that roughly matches the size of your open hand. Select brightly colored fruits and vegetables for the highest levels of disease-fighting carotenoids (orange, red, yellow) and flavonoids (green, blue, purple).

Carbohydrates—Two Types
General rule: Whenever possible, select “whole” and “least processed” carbohydrate sources—but only eat a certain quantity of them (a “fist-sized” or “hand-sized” amount, as shown XXX).

Starches (such as bread, cereal, pasta, and other “concentrated” carbohydrate sources, including potatoes and french fries)
Choose a quantity that is no larger than your tightly closed fist (a small side dish of pasta, potato salad, a dinner roll, etc.).

General rule: Whenever possible, avoid consuming carbohydrates (whether whole-grain or refined) without added protein.

Lean proteins, such as eggs, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk, lean ground beef, steak (with visible fat trimmed), fish (any), chicken, pork chops, etc. should be consumed in an amount that approximately matches the size of the palm of your hand. (Note that I said palm—I am not referring to your entire open hand.) Keep in mind that this portion is likely to be only about half the standard portion served in many restaurants—so be prepared to eat half and bring the other half home for leftovers.

General rule: Whenever possible, avoid consuming carbohydrates (whether whole-grain or refined) without added fat.

Any source of fat will do—butter, olive oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil, cheese, and nuts are fine. Make an “okay” sign with your thumb and index finger, and choose an amount of fat about the size of the circle formed by your index finger/thumb.

As you can see, the Helping Hand approach to eating requires zero counting of calories, fat grams, or carb grams. Why? Because the calorie control is already “built in,” based on the size of your hands—think of them as Mother Nature’s automatic portion control.

If you have average-sized hands (and likely an average-sized body and metabolism), you will consume about five hundred calories from each meal based on this approach. Smaller individuals (with smaller hands and metabolic rates) will have smaller meals with approximately four hundred calories each; while larger people (with larger hands and metabolic rates) will have larger meals that come closer to six hundred calories each.

Eat this way at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you’ll consume about twelve hundred to eighteen hundred calories over the course of the day—or precisely the same range of calories associated with the very best programs for successfully maintaining biochemical balance, vigor, and body weight over the long term.

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Solve the 3 Main Sleep Problems
    and Improve Your Sleep Quality
    without Drugs or Synthetic Melatonin