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Nine 2 five health

Avoiding portion distortion

Revised Portion Plate
Posted by: Julie Meek

Alongside worldwide star status, the very talented Elvis Presley acquired some interesting lifestyle habits in his career. One that certainly didn’t help his heath and wellbeing was eating two ‘Fools Gold Sandwiches’ each and every night.

Each of these sandwiches contained 500g bacon, one jar of jam AND one jar of peanut butter inside a fluffy loaf of white bread. This was only one of his food fixations documented... the mind boggles at the sheer size and volume of food that he consumed.

From his tragic early death and weight issues, it is clear that ‘The King’ lost sight of what an appropriate serving size actually was but fast-forward almost 40 years and he has plenty of company. Multiple nutrition surveys have shown that we are eating much more food today than we used to.

Portion sizes of all kinds of packaged foods and meals have gotten bigger with clever marketing being a big factor in this. I know that the dinner plates and bowls in my cupboards are significantly larger than the dinner sets that my grandparents had. My side plates are not much smaller than their dinner plates were! 

Not giving a lot of thought to how and what you eat has been coined mindless eating – and there is no doubt that many of us engage in lots of it, frequently. This mindless eating results in less attention to the portion sizes we are eating.

Availability and visual triggers are key to how much we eat. In one of his research studies, author and professor Dr Brian Wansink looked at the office lolly jar and how irresistible it is to almost everyone. The study followed 40 secretaries over four weeks in the US, and found that participants consistently ate more of the chocolate and lollies if they were in a clear container rather than opaque.

If you grab just five lollies each day over a working week, a 70kg person would have to run for 29 minutes to burn it off. That's on top of your usual exercise routine. Have you got time?

To avoid the portion size pit, consider the following ideas:

  • Have one or several containers that you can use to store your lunch and snacks. Placing food into portion-controlled containers reduces overeating.
  • Bulk up your snacks or lunch with fresh salad and vegetables prepared the night before, as they are a valuable source of fibre, vitamins and minerals.
  • Don’t eat food directly out of the packet, as it is too easy to just keep eating it. Common culprits include nuts and other savoury snacks.
  • If you are purchasing your lunch and have the option of small, medium or large serves, chose the small or medium and add salad or vegetables to bulk up your meal.
  • Don’t forget to drink water. Sometimes we confuse thirst with hunger and eat rather than have the glass of water that our bodies really want.
  • Eating slowly and focusing on your food will allow time for your brain to register that your stomach is full. Plus eating slower allows you the time to enjoy and actually chew your food. Quite handy really!

For more information on portion control, I recommend you check out The Food File by Healthy Choices Healthy Futures, which has some great tips and stats.

Until next time…
Julie :)

Julie Meek

About Julie Meek

Accredited practising dietitian, performance specialist, speaker

View all posts by Julie Meek

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