Grab bags, bargain buckets, supersized snacks – everywhere you look, portions are morphing, and they’re only going one way. Back in ‘93 the average cottage pie was 210g, now it’s 400; Cadbury’s Dairy Milk came in a single size: 54g. Now they weigh in at 49, 110, 200 and a whopping 360g. That’s push half a kilo of chocolate. It’s an epidemic of portion distortion – no wonder our waistbands are on the move. If you’re feeling a little bigger than you’d like, instead of the latest fad diet, why not shrink the plate? That way you can eat what you love, only less of it.
How much should we be eating?
Like all things human, it varies. Manual workers and marathon runners might need a bit more, desk jockeys a little less, but on average it’s 2000 calories a day for women, 2500 for men. For kids between six and twelve, it’s between 1200 and 2200, depending upon how much exercise they do. Weight gain is a tricky business, but there’s little doubt that eating more calories than we consume has a big hand in it. Eat a little bit more than you burn every day and you’re heading for obesity.
Why keep the weight down?
Healthy sizes and weights vary from person to person – and it’s seldom being as threadbare as a supermodel. But serious weight gain can cause a bunch of nasty health problems including:
- Heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure
- Sleep problems
- Arthritis and joint problems
What’s a portion?
Calories are all well and good, but we eat food, not numbers, so how much should have on our plates, and what should it be?For all round healthy eating, you want to fill your plate from each of the main food groups. This means:
- Fruit and veg – five or more portions a day
- Starchy carbs – pasta, bread, rice, spuds – three to four
- Proteins – beans, pulses, fish, meat, eggs etc – two to three
- Dairy or substitute – two to three
So how much is that? Well here’s a ready guide to some portion sizes for everyday foods – thanks to those helpful folks over at the British Nutrition Foundation:
- One portion of dried pasta shapes is 75g or two handfuls
- A 75g bunch of dried spaghetti is about as round as a pound coin
- A potato as big as your fist – 220g
- Three handfuls of breakfast cereal – 40g
- A piece of chicken breast half the size of your hand – 120g
- A piece of cheddar the size of two thumbs – 30g
Re-train that brain
As we said, portion sizes have swollen in the last twenty-five years – and our appetites along with them. We’re also likely to finish a big plate of food before our stomachs tell us we’re stuffed. Just as a little bit of overeating everyday can lead to big problems – so one small change a day can turn it around. Never forget the Power of One.
Here are a few tips to help shrink those portions:
- Have a piece of fruit before every meal
- Eat slowly – let your body feel what you eat, and when you’re full
- If you fancy a snack, make sure it’s no bigger than your fist
- Fill half your plate with greens
- Drink water – sometimes you’re as much thirsty as hungry
And remember – you don’t have to clear the plate. If your body says you’re full, listen to it.