For many of my clients, fat loss is one of their goals. For some, they just put on a few kilos over winter or during a stressful period in their lives. For others, weight has crept on over the years. Either way, this weight gain can be a real risk to their long term health.
Over the past few decades, portion (serving) sizes have steadily increased, and people are unintentionally consuming more calories. The truth is, people tend to eat what they are served. We underestimate a serve of veggies, yet overestimate a serve of chocolate. Research has shown that there is now a large degree of difference between people’s estimation of typical portion size compared to national recommendations. We tend to ignore the signals of hunger and satiety (satisfaction), until we’ve eaten too much and are overfull.
In this article, I’m going to show you 2 things:
What is a serving size of a particular type of food
How many servings of that particular food the average person should be eating daily
So, what are the national guidelines for serving sizes? They may be much smaller than you think!
1 slice of bread (40g)
½ medium bread roll (40g)
½ cup (75-120g) cooked rice, pasta, noodles, cous cous, quinoa or other grain
½ cup (120g) cooked porridge
3 standard crispbreads
1 crumpet or English muffin
People often come unstuck with their breakfast cereal. A serving size (as suggested on the packet) of a particular cereal might be 30g. For many, this is not a large enough amount to satisfy you and keep you from reaching for unhealthy mid morning snacks, so you might need 1.5 servings (45g) or 2 servings (60g). This isn’t necessarily an issue, so long as you recognise you have now eaten more than 1 serving, and that you keep within the daily allowance of servings for cereals/grains (more on this below).
LEAN MEAT, POULTRY, FISH, EGGS, NUTS, SEEDS AND LEGUMES
65g cooked lean red meat (90-100g raw)
80g cooked lean poultry (100g raw)
100g cooked fish (115g raw) or 1 small can of fish
2 large (120g) eggs
1 cup (150g) cooked or canned legumes such as lentils, chick peas or split peas
30g nuts, seeds, peanut butter or any other nut or seed paste
DAIRY OR DAIRY ALTERNATIVES
1 cup (250ml) milk
1 cup (250ml) soy, rice milk
40g hard cheese such as cheddar
½ cup (120g) ricotta cheese
¾ cup (200g) yoghurt
A standard serve is approx. 75g, eg:
½ cup of cooked vegetables
1 cup of leafy or raw salad vegetables
1 medium tomato
A standard serve is approx. 150g, e.g:
1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear
2 small apricots or plums
125ml no added sugar fruit juice (only occasionally)
30g dried fruit e.g. 3 dried apricot halves or 1.5 teaspoons of sultanas
A serve of foods that provide unsaturated fat such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds is 10g (approx. 2 teaspoons). There is definitely room for these good fats, however, these foods are high in calories, so remember to always keep quantities small, especially if you’re aiming to lose weight. Be mindful that there is fat in your protein intake, especially if eating meat, eggs etc so take this into account. Spread butter, nut butter and avocado thinly. Use just 1 teaspoon (measured not poured) per person in cooking, and think of avocado, seeds and nuts as sprinkles, garnishes or a snack in small quantities.
If you’re not ready to start measuring your food to gauge where you’re at, a good place to start would be getting the balance right when plating up your breakfast, lunch or dinner with this simple rule of thumb:
½ of your plate should be vegetables - think variety and colour! (for the purpose of this exercise these veggies shouldn’t include pumpkin, sweet potato or potatoes as we include them in carbohydrates).
¼ of your plate should be good-quality carbohydrates – such as potato, wholegrain pasta, rice, couscous, quinoa, beans and legumes (such as chickpeas or lentils).
¼ of your plate should be lean protein, like lean meat, poultry, tofu, eggs or legumes (if you’re vegetarian/vegan).
Otherwise, think of your hand as a measuring tool. One palm size of protein, one cupped hand for grains, one thumb (tip to knuckle) for fats, plus as many non starchy veggies as you like.
These are separate from the other food groups above for a reason! According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, these foods are considered discretionary, meaning we don’t need them. In fact, if you’re not at least moderately active they suggest there’s not much room in your diet to include these foods at all. For people in a normal weight range, I believe that eating these foods occasionally and in the right portions can add variety and enjoyment. The problem is, many people are now used to eating these types of food daily. If you are eating these types of foods several times a week it’s worth understanding what a serving size is and how far outside of that you might be, especially if weight/fat loss is your goal.
Two scoops regular ice-cream
1/3 of a meat pie
50-60g processed meats like salami
2-3 sweet biscuits
25g chocolate (half a chocolate bar)
12 fried hot chips
40g sugar confectionary (approx 5-6 small lollies)
1 small slice (40g) plain cake
30g salty crackers
400ml regular beer or 600ml light beer
RECOMMENDED DAILY SERVES
Now that we understand how big a portion/serving size is, let’s take a look at how many portions/serving of each food group is recommended. The below table is from the Eat for Health government website.
TIPS & TRICKS
So how do we bridge this gap and retrain our brains and stomach to eat less? Here are some easy tricks to help you. Remember, you don’t need to try them all, just pick a couple that appeal to you and give them a go.
Are you actually hungry: Many people say they rarely feel hungry. Learn to recognise how it feels to be ‘peckish’, ‘hungry’, ‘ravenous’, or ‘satisfied’, ‘full’ and ‘stuffed’. Perhaps imagine your stomach as a petrol tank with a gauge, and aim for somewhere between quarter and half full. When you eat, think first about how much you really need to feel satisfied and how far away the next meal or snack is.
Not hungry, don’t eat: It’s a myth that you should try and eating morning and afternoon snacks to ensure your metabolism keeps firing. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat!
Be mindful: Eat slowly and ‘mindfully’ without distractions like TV, and give your body time to give you feedback. Put your cutlery down between mouthfuls when you’re chewing, or sip water in between swallows to slow your pace. Pace yourself with a ‘slow’ eater or even the clock. Concentrate on how a food looks, smells, tastes and feels in your mouth and stomach. By eating ‘mindfully’, you will enjoy food more and end up needing less to feel satisfied.
Be label wary: Don’t assume that the serving size information listed is what you will actually eat. Pay close attention to the actual size (weight or volume) listed on the label, as well as the number of suggested servings per package. Even if you eat the entire packet that appears to be marketed for one person, the information on the serving size often states that it contains multiple servings.
Measure up: Bring out those measuring cups and kitchen scales, and spend one day weighing and measuring. This will help you become familiar with recommended serving sizes so that you can then compare these servings to how much you actually eat.
Put it in a dish: How many times have you sat with a bag or packet of food and eaten much more than you planned? To stop this from happening time and time again, pre-portion your meals or snacks and never eat directly from a box or bag that contains multiple servings. If you’re eating takeaway food, transfer the right portion onto a plate and put the package away.
Think small: If you find yourself carelessly filling your brekkie bowl with double the serving size of cereal, it’s time to downsize your dinnerware. The size of your plate or bowl is one of the biggest factors that influences the amount you eat.
If you have any questions regarding any of the above or you would like me to help you set some goals around using portion control to reach your goal, please get in touch.
The measures have been sourced from the Eat for Health government website.