Watch your weight by watching your portion sizes

Watch your weight by watching your portion sizes

on Wednesday, 13 September 2017. posted in nutrition

After being in the USA, I really noticed that the portion sizes were much bigger for most meals- and even though I was conscious of the larger serving sizes, and am aware of how much I should eat, I still often found myself overeating. 

When a larger serving is put in front of us, we are more likely to overeat (study link below). The same goes with take away/packaged foods, the larger container/packet of food the greater chance you will eat more. This is called portion distortion! And this tendency to overeat is obviously directly associated with weight gain and obesity, and the diseases obesity can cause.

A lot of the time these large sized meals/snacks are high in fat, sugar and/or salt, which can interrupt our senses of satiety (when we feel full and satisfied) and this drives us to eat even more. Larger serves or larger size takeaway packaging also appeals to our value for money, ‘getting more for what you pay for’, which is great but unfortunately has an effect on our waistline. When we are served or buy a large meal, we also have a sense of not wanting to waste the meal, which can make us eat more too.

Serving size and how much we eat has been extensively studied with a large review including 72 studies looking at the influence of portion size, takeaway packaging sizes and also the size of the plates or bowls meals are served on. And the results were strong, showing that the greater the size of all these things the more we all ate. The results estimated that reducing serving sizes could reduce daily energy intake by between 12 to 16 percent each day, which may not sound like a lot but over the long run this really adds up and could help to manage weight gain/obesity.

What can I do?

If we serve ourselves, or are served a large meal, we subconsciously overeat meaning we may not even mean to. So the obvious answer is to reduce our meal sizes, and serve or ask for smaller portions of food. This way the temptation is not there, and when you finish your meal you have the chance to think about whether you are full and satisfied or not. This especially applies to dense foods like fried foods, deserts, sugary drinks and fatty foods - and when you do enjoy these foods eat them with smaller plates/bowls/cups/spoons. Foods you can eat larger serves of are lighter foods - like fresh salads (hold the dressings), and vegetables (not heavily cooked in oils) as these are filling, light and most importantly, very nutritious. Don’t fall for the ‘savings’, 2 for one, upsize for a dollar deals, or situations like ‘the large size is only a little bit more, may as well get that’. If you truly are not very hungry, order the smaller size (entrée size) ... I did this the other day! I was served some beautiful fresh bread at a restaurant when we were seated, so I enjoyed 2 slices but ordered an entrée size meal instead of a main size. Be aware of your body and your senses, have you had enough of your meal, or are you eating more purely because it is there and it is tasty? If you are worried about wasting food, ask to take the rest home for the next day. 

Some info-graphics to help you be more sensible your portion choices:



Study link:

REVIEW "Portion, package or tableware size for changing selection and consumption of food, alcohol and tobacco"


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