How to Calculate Food Portions Without a Scale

By LeafTV Editor

Whether you're measuring portions for weight control or accuracy, a food scale is the best way to go. But if you don't have a scale, there are other ways you can measure portions using your hand or common household items.

Old Fashioned Cookbook
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How To Calculate Food Portions Without A Scale

Measuring cups and spoons may be your next best option for keeping portions in check if you don't have access to a food scale. These types of utensils work well for milk, grains, vegetables, cut fruit, oils and nut butters.

  • 1 cup is the standard portion for milk, yogurt, cold cereal, cooked vegetables and cut fruit
  • 1 tablespoon is the standard portion for nut butter
  • 1 teaspoon is standard portion for oil


A 1-cup serving of flour is equal to 4 1/2 ounces, according to King Arthur Flour. For accuracy, sift or fluff the flour before measuring with your cup.

In a pinch, use your hand as a tool to measure portions. Use conversions where a:

  • closed fist equals 1 cup
  • handful equals 1/2 cup
  • thumb equals 1 tablespoon
  • thumb tip equals 1 teaspoon

Your hand can also help you estimate weight measures, where a:

  • pointer finger equals 1 1/2 ounces
  • open palm equals 3 ounces

Due to the variations in hand size, household objects may be a more accurate way for you to measure portions, where a:

  • tennis ball equals 1/2 cup
  • baseball equals 1 cup or one medium piece of fruit
  • deck of cards equals 3 ounces
  • ping-pong ball equals 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • CD equal one pancake
  • cassette tape equals 1 ounce of bread


No matter what you're using to measure portions, check yourself using the standard portion measures, whether it's a food scale or cups and spoons, to ensure accuracy.