The benefits of eating good healthy food is well established now. But if you continue to put weight on it could be because you are simply eating too much, even if its healthy food.
The British Nutrition Foundation have come up with a novel way to help people understand about portion control. Rather than weighing out foods which can be difficult, they suggest that you use your hand. Here we explain how but first,why is portion control so important?
Portion size is often the best change you can make, after you have understood what constitutes a healthy diet. So for example the steak you ate last night may sound relatively healthy but if that steak weighed a whopping 400g you in effect consumed three servings of meat in one meal.
Portion sizes are calculated on an adult on a daily calories allowance of 2000kcal, the amount estimated for a average, healthy woman.If you are more active you may require more but as the portion is based on your open hand the larger you are your larger hand should account for this.Conversely if you are not very active and you are smaller, you will need fewer calories.
The suggestion for each food group is that you should aim for 5+ portions of fruit and veg each day, 3-4 portions of starchy carbohydrates, 2-3 portions of protein(this could take the form of meat, fish or beans and pulses) and 2-3 portions of dairy. We should however be aiming for vegetables and fruit to provide the bulk of what we eat. Unsaturated oils and spreads should account for only a small amount of what we consume in a day.
Weighing out your food is the most accurate way but this may not always be practical or possible. So using your hand or a spoon can be a good alternative. It can also help you visualise more what a portion means when you are eating out in restaurant. So for those starchy carbohydrates we are talking in terms of handfuls. 2 handfuls of dried pasta would constitute a portion, a baked potato should be no larger than your fist, you shouldn't consume more than 3 handfuls of breakfast cereal. When selecting carbohydrates remember to go for wholegrain and high fibre options like wholemeal bread over white bread. When eating potatoes always keep the skins on. Handfuls can also be used to work out the portion size of fruit and vegetables.The message around these however is to try to eat bigger portions of fruit and veg as they are mostly low in calories so long as you don't add sugar or fat to them.
For protein use cupped hands or a fist to work out a portion size, and a finger and thumb for dairy products.So a chicken breast should be about half the size of your hand.Try to access plant based protein more as this tends to be low in fat, so sources like beans, chickpeas and lentils are all good sources of protein.Try to cut down on the red meat you consume. If you are getting protein from meat and fish do also be aware how you are cooking it. Grilling, stewing and baking is healthier than frying or roasting which absorbs more fat.
These can be high in fats so here we are talking about tablespoons or thumb sizes. Peanut butter shouldn't be more than 1 tablespoon and a piece of cheddar cheese should be about the size of two thumbs. Where you can look at low fat options.
By treats we mean foods like chocolate and biscuits. The real answer is to eat as little of these as possible but if you want to treat yourself then no more than 4 small squares of chocolate or 2 small biscuits. Do also watch the sugary drinks as they fall into this group. If you can try to eliminate these from your diet completely as the sugar in them racks up the calorie content.
The idea of portion control isn't really designed to be about weight loss and we would always recommend that you consult your doctor before commencing any diet. Portion control is about being healthy and if you do keep to the right portions then you probably will lose weight and be healthy.