Sunday, 29 December 2013

Portion Caution

With the silly season nearing an end we will soon be bombarded with endless advertisements for 'detox diets' and other 'quick fixes'. These DO NOT WORK! Sure you'll use a bit of weight to begin with (because you're essentially starving yourself) but you won't be able to maintain it and that's where the problem lies: the weight re-gain which then makes you even more upset and there more weight to lose than when you started (but that's a story for another blog). 

Save yourself the hassle and make small, easily achievable goals that you can stick to! Because we all know success drives more success (to read more on weight loss goals click here). One of the first places I would suggest a client look at when wanting to lose weight is portion sizes.

As a nation, we are getting fatter. In 2011-12, nearly 2 in 3 Australian adults and 1 in 4 Australian children were overweight or obese (based on the Australian Health Survey; see ABS 2012). And these statistics are expected to rise. 

Portion distortion

An interesting fact is the corresponding increase in both plate and total portion size. Plate sizes have increased by 40% since the 1960's. And this is a problem why? A study by Wansink and Coert of Cornell University in 2006 explained that plate size is an optical illusion, with the larger the plate the smaller the serving of food appears to be. Participants at a health and fitness camp served themselves and consumed 16% more cereal than fellow participants given smaller bowls. The scary part was, despite eating more, these participants estimated consuming 7% less than those who ate from the smaller bowls.

Plate sizes have increased along with obesity rates,
serving to increase our overall portions.

Super sizing and cheap meal deal upgrades have caused us
lose sight of what a healthy portion size is.

But it's not just at home that we have to be cautious of our portions, fast food outlets, restaurants and products on our supermarket shelves are also larger than they were 50 years ago. In an age of super sizing and cheap meal deal upgrades, it's easy to see how people have lost sight of what a healthy portion size is and gained weight in the process.

So, what is a healthy portion size anyway?

To overcome the effects of portion distortion, take note of what a serving size is meant to look like for each of the five food groups (and how many serves you're supposed to be having). I've listed the serve sizes based on the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, but for more information on how serve sizes and how many YOU should be having, check out eat for health.

A serve of fruit is equal to...

A serve of grain (cereal) foods is equal to...

A serve of meat or alternatives is equal to...

A serve of dairy or alternatives is equal to...

A serve of veg is equal to...

A a guide, use your hands. You should be having roughly a palm-sized piece of meat, a fist-sized serve of rice or pasta and just a thumb-sized amount of oil or margarine.

Quick tips to reduce your portions
  • Use smaller plates, bowls, cups and cutlery. If you don't want to have to go out and buy a whole new crockery and cutlery set, try using a side plate instead of a main plate, a tea cup instead of a mug and a teaspoon instead of a large spoon.
  • Whenever you serve yourself up your usual sized meal or snack, remove a quarter of the meat, carb and sauce parts (not the veggies, we're generally not eating enough of those!) and reserve as leftovers.
  • Use the above pictures as a reference for the amount of each food you should be eating!
  • Pre-portion your snacks rather than just eating straight out of the box or packet.
  • Avoid the temptation of upsizing if you have to eat at a fast food restaurant- those extra couple of dollars will bring you more kilojoules (calories) than you bargained for.
  • Choose the smallest size cup or container on offer when buying out.

For more ideas, check out the reducing portion size section of my previous blog 'small changes that can add up to a big difference to your weight'.

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