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Nutrition that is taken out of your hands…literally. 

Nutrition that is taken out of your hands…literally. 


Forget counting calories!

By Simon Herbert

Most fitness professionals will have you counting calories. That’s awesome; if you have the time and energy to do so. But what happens when you are away from the kitchen scales, eating out with friends, getting the kids ready for school, or travelling the world on business? 

The problem with calorie counting – the calorie-in model”

First off, you need to understand macronutrients and calories, and then start to calculate how many calories are in each type of food you consume. Unless you are a knowledgeable food tracker, that’s just way too much effort in the busy real world for someone who just wants to lose a bit of weight or firm up some wobbly bits 

That being said, we now have access to food databases, websites, tracking apps, food diary’s, and good ole math, but what if the methods we are using are inaccurate? The research shows that around 25% of the calories we track can have an error in the maths. Incorrect labelling, food quality, measurement error, and even forgetting to input foods you’ve eaten into your app or food diary can mean inconsistent mistakes, and under tracked  food intakes, this can become frustrating.  

Then we have calories out!  

Do you know how many calories you’re burning each day?  


The world has fit bits, apple watches and many other forms of tracking energy expenditure (calories burned), but how accurate are they? Again, anywhere up to 25% of total daily energy expenditure could be miscalculated.  

Based on the above, can you imagine tracking every step and writing it down, working out (if possible) how many calories you burned during your session, and how much food to the exact gram, you are consuming? Sounds tedious right? It is not impossible; some of my clients do it vigorously and love it. Athletes and stage competitors need to be very detailed to hit peak condition, athletes have to hit set amounts of calories and macronutrients, and we have methods we use to ensure accuracy is monitored and accounted.  

What about the average businessperson who travels, the mum or dad who has to care for their children and put themselves last, or the individual who just wants to feel and look better? 

Use what mother nature gave you! 

All you need is the ability to count to two, and by using nothing more than your own hands, here’s how you can do it with ease. 

 First off, you have to have some understanding of macronutrients.​ 

Macronutrients are a type of food (e.g. fat, protein, carbohydrate) required in large amounts in the diet. 

Just as the avid tracker would determine how many grams of each macronutrient they would consume (which is usually a balance of all three at each meal), the hand portion method carries a similar process but by using your hands and not grams. 

Firstly, determine your protein intake: 

For protein dense foods such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, beans, use a palm-sized portion. A palm-sized amount is the same thickness and diameter as your palm. 

  • Males 2 palm-size portion  
  • Females 1 palm-size portion  

Secondly, determine your vegetable intake: 

For vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, spinach and cauliflower, use a fist-sized portion. A fist-sized amount is the same diameter and thickness of your fist.   

  • Males 2 fist-size portion  
  • Females 1 fist-size portion  

Thirdly determine your fat intake: 

For foods that are dense in fats such as oils, butter, nuts, seeds and nut/seed butter, use a full thumb to determine your portion size. 

  • Males 2 thumb size portion  
  • Females 1 thumb size portion  

Lastly, determine your carbohydrate intake: 

For carbohydrate foods such as grains, fruits and starches, aim for a cupped hand-sized portion to determine your serving size 

  • Males 2 cupped hand size portions  
  • Females 1 cupped hand size portion  

Planning your meals:​ 

Based on the guidelines I’ve laid out, this will assume you’ll be eating about four times a day  which you now have a flexible and straightforward guide for planning your meals both at home, eating out, and in any other country if you work away from home. 

Just to recap – based on four meals per day 

For men:  

  • Two palms of protein dense foods with e ach meal
  • Two fists of vegetables with each meal 
  • Two cupped hands of carb dense foods with most meals
  • Two thumb size amounts of fat dense foods with most meals

For women:  

  • One palm of protein-dense foods with each meal 
  • One fist of vegetables with each meal
  • One cupped hand of carb dense foods with most meals
  • One entire thumb of fat dense foods with most meals. 

This serves as a great starting point in any journey, and the next time you hear from me, I will be explaining how to adapt these portions to either lose body fat or gain muscle, and how to customise the plan for you. 


Simon Herbert is a Gym owner, educator and nutrition coach. He regularly speaks at industry conferences and works with a diverse and wide range of clients. You can join his 32,000 Instagram followers by following @simonherbertuk