This week I saw a great article in the Guardian Newspaper: Our gigantic problem with portions: why are we all eating too much? It echoed with what I’ve been saying for years – that portion sizes have increased quite dramatically even in my lifetime, and they can be far too big!
This is happening at home, as well as in supermarkets and restaurants. In the kitchen, we now tend to use larger plates and wine glasses; in the 1950s the normal diameter for a dinner plate was 25cm, now it’s 28cm! Psychologists believe that you’re more likely to eat a larger portion if you serve it on a large plate, the same applies to drinking more from larger glasses as well. We’re also being sold larger portions in supermarkets and restaurants; a study by the Food Standards Agency found that ready-meal portions have grown significantly in the last few years; a shop-bought beef lasagne averaged around 250g in 1999 but by 2008 had grown to 500g.
All this portion distortion means that you can be eating a healthy diet, but are still consuming too many calories. And the rules of weight gain are simple: if you’re taking in more energy (i.e. calories!) than you’re expending, then you’re going to put on weight. This is why when I’m asked what the one thing you can do to make a real difference to weight loss is, I always recommend cutting portion sizes by about a third.
Now this is easier said than done! Not only are we are being sold bigger portions, but a lifetime of eating bigger portions means that our perception of what a recommended portion looks like has become distorted as well. To help, here’s a list of what the correct portion size looks like:
|One portion of:||Equals the size of:|
|Rice or pasta, uncooked||Tennis ball|
|Lean meat||A deck of cards or an iphone|
|Hard cheese||Small matchbox|
|Vegetables||1 handful (about 80g)|
|Fruit||1 handful (about 80g)|
|Butter or olive oil||Tip of your thumb|
|Potato||A small computer mouse|
So try to bear these in mind when you’re cooking or eating out this weekend!