Portion control is a hugely important factor with regards to your body weight and when you want to lose a few kilos or drop a dress size or two.
Eat too much, and your weight will go up. Eat just the right amount, and your weight will go down. Eat too little, and you run the risk of stunting your weight loss completely and causing your body to become malnourished. So how exactly do you get the balance right?
The modern, western diet is filled to the brim with huge portions. Whether we’re taking away, eating out, or cooking for ourselves, the amount of food on our plates has continued to grow over the past decades
Part of the problem lies in our ingrained attitude towards food and consumption. From a very young age, we are encouraged to eat everything that we are served and to clear our plates, so to speak. I’m sure many people can recall family dinners where there was no dessert if dinner wasn’t completely finished.
While enjoying our food and having a healthy attitude to what we are served is important, we often grow up confused as to exactly how much we actually need to eat.
It doesn’t help that when faced with a full plate, we often end up eating everything on offer, simply because when we are faced with food and begin eating, we find it very difficult to assess the actual portions included.
Tips for portion control
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Generally, to keep your body healthy and functioning at its optimum level, you need to have a number of portions of foods from different food groups every day to make sure that you’re getting your entire daily recommended intake of vitamins and nutrients.
The guidelines are: at least 5 or more fruit & vegetable portions per day and ideally you should try to eat at least 2 pieces of fruit and 4 pieces of vegetables, 4 wholegrain carbohydrate portions per day, 3 protein/dairy portions per day, and 3 fat portions per day.
A portion of fruit & vegetables is usually counted as a large handful. A portion of potato (225g) should be the size of a computer mouse, a portion of spaghetti should be about 1.5cm or less in diameter, a small portion of shaped pasta should be a small, heaped handful, around 40g, and a portion of cooked rice (150g) should be roughly the size of a small tuna tin.
Portions of protein, such as chicken, beef, pork etc should be trimmed of all fat and should be around the size of the palm of your hand. Portions of dairy should be kept small, to a 250ml glass if you’re drinking milk and in 50-100g pots if eating yoghurt.
Portions of cheese, however, shouldn’t be any bigger than the size of a matchbox (28g). Fat portions, such as oil, should usually not exceed more than 1 tbsp of heart healthy fat at a time.
Although that sounds like a lot of portion sizes to remember, there are some ways to make things easier for yourself. For example, some people serve their food on smaller plates to the rest of their family, so they won’t be tempted to fill the plate up with food, whilst others keep portion servers to hand, such as a clean, washed tuna tin to pack rice into or a spaghetti measurer in the cupboard to work out exactly how much spaghetti to cook.
You may prefer just to weigh your food, then once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll know your portion sizes off by heart. It’s all about finding a method that works for you – and once you’ve found that method, stick with it.
You can also purchase a portion control plate which helps you to set portion sizes and helps you to measure out what need for need for each meal.