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Aveen Bannon

So what’s the story with portion sizes?

Firstly let’s look at the difference between a portion versus a serving…A portion is what you choose to eat on the other hand a serving is a specific amount of food. An example might be a cereal…the cereal box may say 30 g is an adult serving but how much you choose to eat is your portion size! Here in lies the problem! Portion sizes have been gradually increasing over the last 20 years, research shows us that this increase in portion sizes has made it harder for us to recognise what an actual recommended serving size looks like.

Believe it or not but the size and colour of our dinner plate can affect our portion sizes too. Plates are bigger than what they used to, plate sizes have increased by 40% over the last 50 years. People tend to fill their plate when they sit down for a meal – and most of us do not stop eating until our plate is clean! That means on average we could be almost eating twice as much as our parents did. Using smaller plates will help us eat less and hopefully eat to appetite yet still feel satisfied! Kids should eat off smaller plates than adults. I usually recommend serving dinner on a side plate until about 12. Then if still hungry you can assess if they need any more food.

Some say that eating off very strong coloured or contrasting colour plates can result in us eating less…more specifically as there are no blue foods we are supposed to eat less from a blue plate! Rather than redecorating your kitchen I’d suggest trying smaller plates first! Our hands are a good reference tool for portion sizes. Ideally, your plate should be about the circumference of your hand when stretched out. A closed fist is the about right for your portion of carbohydrate e.g. rice/potato or pasta and your protein serving is the palm of your hand. This simple tool works for the whole family and can be a good indicator of what a recommended serving size
should look like.

Snacking is another zone we need to be mindful of when it comes to portions sizes! It is a no surprise that portions sizes of snack foods have increased over the last 50 years and in some cases by more than 50%! One instance where the serving sizes have remained the same as what our parents would have eaten is fruit! An average serving of fruit is 80g which equates to about the size of a tennis ball…e.g. an apple, an orange, about 8-10 strawberries or 2 kiwi fruits. A serving size of nuts is 30- 35g or about the size of a golf ball. By choosing healthy snack foods like nuts, fruit or yogurt you will find it easier to stick to the recommended serving size.

The next step is balance on the plate…divide your plate in 3 with 1/3 protein, 1/3 carbohydrates and 1/3 fruits or vegetables. If trying to lose weight adjust the plate a little to contain 1/2 vegetables or fruit, a 1/4 protein and 1/4 carbohydrate. When eating out be aware that meals may be much larger than you would eat at home and, if you want, share one dish between two or bring leftovers home!

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