Accuracy of hands v. household measures as portion size estimation aids

03 January 2017

Accurate estimation of food portion size is critical in dietary studies. Hands are potentially useful as portion size estimation aids; however, their accuracy has not been tested. The aim of the present study was to test the accuracy of a novel portion size estimation method using the width of the fingers as a ‘ruler’ to measure the dimensions of foods (‘finger width method’), as well as fists and thumb or finger tips. These hand measures were also compared with household measures (cups and spoons). A total of sixty-seven participants (70 % female; age 32·7 (sd 13·7) years; BMI 23·2 (sd 3·5) kg/m2) attended a 1·5 h session in which they estimated the portion sizes of forty-two pre-weighed foods and liquids. Hand measurements were used in conjunction with geometric formulas to convert estimations to volumes. Volumes determined with hand and household methods were converted to estimated weights using density factors. Estimated weights were compared with true weights, and the percentage difference from the true weight was used to compare accuracy between the hand and household methods. Of geometrically shaped foods and liquids estimated with the finger width method, 80 % were within ±25 % of the true weight of the food, and 13 % were within ±10 %, in contrast to 29 % of those estimated with the household method being within ±25 % of the true weight of the food, and 8 % being within ±10 %. For foods that closely resemble a geometric shape, the finger width method provides a novel and acceptably accurate method of estimating portion size.