As you know food portion sizes play a huge role in our efforts to achieve our ultimate health and fitness goals. In fact our training results rely on up to 80% of what we eat.
Gone are the days when everyone thought “if I exercise I can eat whatever I want”. Not only is this a myth that has led many people to actually gaining more body fat, but it hasn’t helped with the fight to improve heart health either. The confusion over food portions sizes has certainly caused havoc as to how people evaluate the amount they serve and consume in their daily meals.
1. So what’s so bad about consuming oversized food portions?
The larger your meal portions the more calories you consume. Which can definitely back-fire on you if your aim is to get lean.
Some of the research that has been performed on this topic has shown that soft drink portions have increased by 62%, salty snacks by nearly 58%,french fries by 57%, deserts by 33%, burgers by 18% and home made burgers by 50%.
Next time when you are shopping check out the weight of products and you will see how many of them now offer larger size packets, cans, jars and serving sizes.
Frozen dinners now offer a choice of larger meals. Chocolate bars are larger and so called “healthy snacks” which are often packed full of sugar and salt, but state low in fat, also now offer bigger servings.
2. Some of the reasons why people are overeating and increasing their food portion sizes
While working with clients as a personal fitness trainer I have found the following reasons to be the most common “dilemma” for portion distortion getting out of hand.
a. You’re doing your food shop and come across a packet of crisps or chips for which the label claims is “low in fat”, plus the packet offers an extra 50% on top of it’s normal size for the current product promotion. WOW!
There are three options that could be taken here:
a. Don’t buy it
b. Buy it and keep to your normal smaller food portion size or…
c. Think – “heck if it’s low in fat then I can eat the whole pack, including the extra 50%! And because it’s low in fat I won’t get fat.
The majority of people would probably chose “c”. And why not, they’re presenting a low fat munchie session for you to take advantage of! You feel you couldn’t possibly pass it up.
How many products on your shopping list are actually low in fat? Have you checked out the fine print on these products? Many make huge claims that they are considerably low in fat however the fat content is often indicated in weight rather than “fat calories”.
How many times have you said “oh a little bit extra won’t hurt – after all it is low in fat”. I am guessing you couldn’t count the amount of times you’ve heard yourself say this. So you decide to just go ahead and add another dollop or serve. Without even realizing it you’re increasing your food portion sizes.
In the case of the low fat crisps you’re obviously going to be eating more fat and salt than you were when you were restricting yourself to the small low fat packet, because you ended up increasing your portion sizes (eating too many)!
The following is also very common… using a larger plate to serve your food.
I know this sounds weird but I’m not joking…
I’ve trained folk who have said they read that if you use three portion meals you just divide the actual plate size into thirds – which according to them entitles them to have larger meals. I admit I have also read something similar but it stated that the plate was smaller in size than your average bountiful dinner plate. I think this is called “selective reading”. 🙂
On asking them to measure their plates I discovered that they were actually eating double each portion size for each meal. Which, as you can imagine, won’t do a thing towards helping that six pack appear, due to them doubling their calorie intake.
If you’re the type of person who feels deprived if your plate isn’t heaped full of food then I suggest you serve your meals on smaller plates.
Now don’t go emailing me with abusive emails because I told you that you have to go out and buy a new dinner set – that’s not what I am saying. You just need to think smart about how you serve your food and your portions correctly to make it work for you.
3. Using your common-sense and sticking to your food serving sizes
Consume 5 smaller meals daily – six if your training is really intense
(Note: This doesn’t include people who are wanting to pack on size – hardgainers – see the body building section of VFT’s blog for tips on this).
Each food portion size per meal should include:
1 x portion of protein: lean chicken breasts, lean turkey breasts, fish, very lean read meat, cottage cheese, egg whites etc
1 x portion of brown carbs or fruit: such as whole grain bread, brown pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes and fruits such as apples, oranges, stoned fruit etc. Corn and pumpkin also come under this category.
1 x portion of green salad and veggies: spinach, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce.
The easiest way to measure a portion is:
1 x portion = equivalent to the size of a deck
1 x portion = approx 3 ounces
1 x portion = approx 1/2 a cup
For those of you who are aiming to cut back on body fat then reduce your brown / fruit portions towards the end of the day. Keeping them for your breakfast and lunch and removing them for your evening meal. A sample evening meal would be: grilled lean chicken breast with a low fat green salad. If you’re a larger build then you may need to increase this also.
Note: You must check with your doctor before starting any new eating plan. The above may not suit everyone’s needs, especially those who’s carbs must be monitored or have special carb requirements due to a medical condition.
Yours in fun, health and fitness
© Mandy Gibbons
Virtual Fitness Trainer