Monitoring the portions of food we eat is essential if we are to maintain a healthy weight. Eating the right amount of food is an important part to us achieving a balanced diet.
So how much should we be eating?
Well we all need a certain number of calories. Daily guideline amounts of calories are 2,000Kcal for women and 2,500Kcal for men based on the estimated average energy requirements from the UK government guidelines on Nutrition. However, these are just guidelines and it’s important to understand there is no such thing as one energy requirement for all.
Men and women generally have differing energy requirements. A man who is fairly sedentary won’t necessarily need a huge amount more to eat than a woman. For the same reason, a man or a woman who is in a very active job, or who does a lot of exercise will need a bigger portion than someone less active.
Our weight is one of the best guides to whether we’re eating the right number of calories or not. Making changes so that we balance what we eat in our diet, such as eating more fruit instead of chocolates, crisps and biscuits, will reduce the amount of calories we consume, but we also need to consider the total amount we eat. That’s most important.
We often hear the phrase ‘everything in moderation,’ but that’s not strictly true. We need more of some things and much less of others. When adjusting our portion sizes, we must remember that the overall balance of food groups should stay the same.
The main group that we can struggle to eat enough of is fruit and vegetables. To get our 5-a-day, we really need to eat five 80g portions. Fruit and vegetables that are fresh, frozen, tinned and dried all count, as do juice, smoothies and beans and pulses such as kidney beans and baked beans.
Juice counts as once a day, however many portions of them we eat. But we only need to drink 150ml of juice to get our one portion, so there would be no need to drink gallons. While potatoes are a vegetable, in relation to nutrition they are in the starchy foods category and so don’t count as part of our 5-a-day.
To help us stick to an appropriate sized portion, we must think about how many people a dish is going to serve before we prepare it, then separate out any extra portions as other single servings when we serve ourselves. These can be packaged up in containers and bags and stored either in the fridge or freezer, ready for another mealtime.
Rice and pasta portion sizes can be difficult to judge because the amount looks so different in its uncooked state. One way around this, is to measure out dry foods before we start cooking, based on previous experiences. That way we avoid cooking too much and being tempted to eat more than one portion.
Getting our portions right can be the final push we need to get those last few pounds off. Eating less might seem like a bit of a sacrifice, especially when we’ve made changes to get the balance right in our diet and other people seem to be able to load their plates with food without having to consider weight issues. It’s important to remember that the amount that’s right for someone else won’t necessarily be the same for us.
Using some of these simple tools and tips will help us to adapt to serve the right amount and in doing so, help us achieve the correct portion size.