Are your portion sizes growing?February 2020
Portion sizes are one of the areas many people can start with when it comes to achieving their health goals. We are all guilty of overeating. Myself included. When food is delicious we override our innate bodily system. We don’t allow our hormones enough time to communicate with our brain and therefore we can over eat. This override, combined with unprecedented availability of cheap, energy-dense, palatable foods leads to a lot of health problems. I have never met a client who has said to me, “Jess I have this issue with over eating vegetables”.
We’re so used to being served a dinner plate covered with food, that if we get anything less we don’t think it’ll be enough to fill our stomachs. Our stomach is stretchy, think of it like a balloon that inflates and deflates with food. After a while the stretch in the balloon weakens and it doesn’t snap back into shape as quickly. This is when we are eating larger portion sizes on a regular bases, the stomach stretch receptors become weakened and it takes more food to fill to the point we are used too.
What should your portion sizes look like?
This is a hard question to answer, as so many other variables come into play. How much do you exercise? Do you have a physical job or sedentary? Your genes. Your current state of health. Any medications you may be on, and the list goes on. So I am going to provide you with a generalised overview of what your portion sizes should look like. For some this may be obvious, for others it could be a total eye opener.
First of all, completely ignore the rule we all were told as kids. “You can’t leave the table until you finish everything on your plate.” I believe this was the way parents encouraged/forced their kids to eat vegetables, but as adults we’ve brought it into our modern life. You do not have to eat everything on your plate. If you are full, or feel like you’re reaching the point of being full. Stop eating.
The answer for how to portion your meal is in your hands. Literally. This is what I teach my clients:
Protein = size and thickness of your palm
Starch carbs = the size of your fist
Vegetables = heaped handful of your hands cupped together
Fat = size and thickness of your index and middle finger together
These are a very generalised and simple way of quickly checking your plate if needed. As you learn you will reach a point where you don’t need to think of this anymore.
Should you follow the food pyramid / plate?
Honestly, whilst it has improved over the years. It still has a little way to go. The food pyramid I had to learn growing up is very different to the food plate promoted now.
The current food plate is still a little too dominant in starchy carbohydrates (shown as grains). I’d like to see vegetables as nearly half of the plate. This is where the really nourishing foods live, with the remainder coming from all the other categories. So you can use the food plate as guide, but not gospel.
If you feel like your portion sizes have grown over the last few years, try to just make it smaller by 10% for a few weeks and take note of how you’re feeling. Initially it will be your mind telling you to eat more, but eventually your stomach will adjust to a smaller portion that is more beneficial to your health. When I encourage a slight reduction in food portion size, I am not wanting you to a completely minimise what you are eating or skip meals.
Until next time… x
Written by Jessica Worth, Nutritionist, Sydney, Northern Beaches, Mona Vale
Curious about how to put portion sizes into action? Check out my 21-day Reset.