Portion Sizes and Weight Loss

Portion Sizes and Weight Loss

Even making fairly healthy food choices, and getting some exercise in, doesn’t guarantee weight loss. The overall amount of food we are eating is always going to matter. That’s why having a look at your portion sizes can be really helpful. Our portion sizes have increased dramatically over the last few decades and it’s making us eat more food than we need. Reducing your portion sizes could easily cut almost 300 calories out of your diet each day, so have a look at our tips on how to eat smaller portions:

Use a smaller plate

It may sound simple but not only can you fit less on a smaller plate (don’t go back for seconds and thirds!) but a full plate sends a signal that you are eating a full meal; a partially filled plate sends the signal that you are eating a small meal. So opt for smaller plates!

Be careful with bread and starchy carbs

If you’re the kind of person who likes to pile their dish high with starchy carbs like pasta, rice or potatoes, then that’s an obvious place to start trimming your portions. Try rebalancing your plate to make these carbs a smaller component of your meal - without adding to the rest either! (Though it won't hurt to get more vegetables in there). And if you’re partial to a few slices of bread on the side of your meal, try breaking this habit, as it is significantly increasing your calorie intake. If you don’t want to give up your bread, stick to one slice, and make sure it’s whole grain. And of course skipping sweet desserts will always help – save them for a treat rather than for every day.

Resist the leftovers

If you’re in the habit of eating what’s left in the pan or on other people’s plates, stop now! Wasting food isn’t ideal but feasting on leftovers is a sure-fire way to consume way more calories than you intended to. If this happens regularly, you might need to start cooking less food. And if there is food left over in the pan, put it in a container and eat for lunch the next day – you could save some money that way too.

Give it some time

If you’ve finished the food on your plate and still feel hungry, wait 20 minutes and see how you feel. Often it takes a while for your body to feel full after a meal. If you still feel hungry after 20 minutes, go for a piece of fruit instead of diving for the chocolate.

Check your labels

Packaging often contains a suggested serving size, so have a look and see what they suggest - it might be less than your normal portion.

Measure it

Measuring out portions is a great way to make sure you’re not going overboard with the amount of food on your plate. And once you do it a few times it’ll become second nature. 

One portion of breakfast cereal is around 3 tablespoons

One portion of muesli is around 2 tablespoons

One portion of cooked boiled rice, pasta or couscous is around 2 heaped tablespoons or the size of 1 tennis ball or ice cream scoop

One portion of vegetables is around 3 large tablespoons or the size of a cricket ball

One portion of medium fruit such as apple, pears and bananas is just that – one fruit

Smaller fruits such as satsumas and pears, one portion is equal to two fruits

One portion of berries is about the size of a tennis ball

Two eggs make up one portion

A portion of baked beans is around 5 tablespoons

A portion of whole nuts is the size of a golf ball

A portion of butter or margarine is 1 teaspoon

A portion of oil is one teaspoon and salad dressing is one shot glass

A portion of full-fat mayonnaise is 1 teaspoon

A portion of lean cooked meat or poultry is around 60 - 90g, or around the size of a deck of cards

A portion of lean cold meat is 2 thin slices

A portion of cooked fish is about 100-150g or about the size of a cheque book

One portion of sausages is two large sausages 

A portion of salad is 1 medium cereal bowl

A portion of milk is 200ml or a small glass

A portion of cheese is about 50g or the size a matchbox

A portion of yoghurt is one small pot of 150g

Fruit juice can count as one of your 5-a-day but remember that it is really high in sugar and you should try and keep a serving of this to no more than 150ml.

Learn more about portion sizes for free at The Open University. 

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