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Portion Control – The Hand Jive Method

Do you feel like your weight management is getting out of hand? The hand jive method will show you how you can get a better grip on your portions!

Achieving a healthy weight is an important step in managing your diabetes, but who wants to carry around a set of measuring cups to know just how much you’re eating every day? Instead, try this method, developed by Dr. Kazzim G.D. Mawji, a diabetes specialist who practices in Zimbabwe.

Used worldwide to support people living with diabetes, this method is meant to be a simpler way to keep track of your portion control by using your hands as the measurement tool! 

Pixabay, Pexels

So how does it work?

Dr. Kazzim assigned measurement values to the hands as a visible point of reference for portion sizes—a reflection of the Canadian guidelines. For example, a closed fist is the size of the standard portion of starch.

Palm = 1 portion of protein (meat/fish/poultry)

Choose an amount the size of the palm of your hand and the thickness of your little finger

Closed fist = 1 portion of carbohydrates (fruit/grains/starches)

You can also drink up to 1 cup (250 mL) of low-fat milk or alternative with a meal

Thumb = 1 portion (tablespoon) of fats (peanut butter)

Limit fat to an amount the size of the tip of your thumb

Cupped hands = 1 portion of non-starchy vegetables

Choose as much as you can hold in both hands

Olha_Afanasieva, Canva

Now that we know what the hand jive method is, let’s explore when and how to use it...

The tool can be helpful in a few different situations. You can use it to support you in planning your meal or meals of the day, or when you are assessing how much of each type of food you should add to your plate or bowl.

The hand method is also particularly useful if you are trying to remember how much you ate after a meal. This is a realistic strategy because you may not always have a food scale with you. Using your hands as a point of reference can support you in accounting for your food intake without a worry. For example…

A hearty oatmeal breakfast can be broken down into:

  1. One closed fist of prepared steel cut oats, with;
  2. One thumb of peanut butter and;
  3. One cupped handful of chopped apples
letty17, Canva

Isn’t that an interesting way to track your food?

For a fun exercise, think about the last meal you ate and try to break it down using the Zimbabwe Hand Jive (or try to plate a meal the next time you eat using this method!) Tools like this will empower you to have control over how much you eat and make informed decisions to manage your diabetes.

Is this something you can see yourself realistically doing? 


Baumer, Eva Marie. “Using the Zimbabwe Hand Teaching Method With an Urban Austrian Population.” Diabetes Spectrum, vol. 12, no. 3, 1999, p. 185.

Franz, Marion J. “Weight Loss Interventions and Outcomes: Type 2 Diabetes.” Journal of Obesity & Weight Loss Therapy, vol. s5, 2015, doi:10.4172/2165-7904.s5-005.

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