Is portion control the secret to a healthy diet?

Print Friendly

They say it’s best to have everything in moderation—can cutting down your portion sizes finally help you banish fad diets for good?

Whether it’s low carb schemes like Atkin’s and Paleo, or crazes like the master cleanse, eating according to blood type or blending everything into ‘baby food’, we’re continually inundated with the latest, greatest fad diet.

But despite the growth of these so-called solutions, one overarching truth remains: we’re fatter than ever before. A recent study revealed that more Brits are either obese or overweight than at any other time in the past three decades.

Clearly, trendy diets designed for quick results haven’t made us any healthier in the long term. Maybe it’s time to get back to basics.

Health vs. vanity

In order to approach weight loss logically, it helps to remember the main reason you’re trying to lose weight: your health! You may be dying to squeeze back into your favourite jeans, but your biggest concern should be how obesity puts you at a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, liver disease and many more life-threatening conditions. Fad diets are a quick fix for superficial insecurities, but it’s time to get serious.

The science of portion control

Why does portion awareness matter? At a basic level, when you overeat, you consume more calories than your body needs. Those excess calories lead to weight gain. That’s the cold, hard truth.

As Cornell University food psychologist Brian Wansink explains, our careless eating habits cause us to regularly eat 100-200 calories more than we need at each meal. If you pay attention to your body, it will naturally tell you when enough’s enough. But too often we ignore our what our bodies are telling us and eat “mindlessly”.

Our subconscious decision to overeat is driven by our brain’s limbic system—the part that supports emotion, motivation and behaviour. Too often, our limbic impulses win against our brain’s ability to make conscious, analytical decisions. Why? Because we don’t think, we just eat. Being more intentional with your meals and considering long-term consequences of overeating is the first step towards achieving a healthier weight.

Snacks aren’t the enemy

Although snacking mindlessly is an obvious no-no, you don’t have to write snacking off completely. If you’re hungry between meals, don’t be afraid to grab an apple or snack on a handful of almonds. You may have been raised in a strict no-snacking household, but experts now say that a light snack may actually stop you from overeating at mealtime.

OK, so what are the proper portion sizes?

In order to visualise what a healthy portion size looks like, Guard Your Health recommends comparing food items to certain parts of your hand. For example:

  • Meat: 3 ounces (about the size of your palm) = one portion
  • Butter for your toast: 1 teaspoon (about the size of your fingertip) = one portion
  • Ice cream: 1 cup (about the size of a clinched fist) = one portion

Additionally, this comprehensive portion guide covers wide range of foods and the number of portions for each food group you should eat each day. For example:

  • – Cereal: 9 tablespoons (about the size of a tennis ball) = three portions
  • – Bread: 2 slices = two portions
  • – Hard cheese: 30g (size of a small matchbox) = one portion

Reading up on what constitutes a portion, and how many portions of different foods you should eat a day, will give you the information you need to keep your portion sizes in check.

Do you think portion sizes have gotten bigger over time?

The following two tabs change content below.

Silversurfers Features Editor

Hello there! I’m Rachel and I’m the Features Editor for Silversurfers. I work behind the scenes to bring interesting, informative and entertaining subject matter to the Silversurfers community. I hope you enjoy the features we have shared with you. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us, we love to hear from you!

Latest posts by Silversurfers Features Editor (see all)

Not a member?

Join the silversurfers community today! It's free, easy to do, and is packed full of features and amazing offers!

Join the community!
Click here if you have forgotten your password

Community Terms & Conditions

Content standards

These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.

You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.

Contributions must:

be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.

Contributions must not:

contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.

Nurturing a safe environment

Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.

We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!

More Diet & Exercise

Moving your exercise routine indoors for winter Healthy Middle Aged Woman
Whether it’s snow or heavy rain, short mornings and long evenings, doing exercise outdoors...
Cooking with Coconut oil Coconut with coconut oil in jar on wooden background
You’ve probably heard about the rise of coconut oil as a superfood, beloved by chefs and...
Sneak in 150 minutes of exercise next week Senior Man and woman exercising with bicycles outdoors, they are
To stay healthy or improve your health as an older adult, the NHS recommends 150 minutes of...
Natural laxatives for better digestion Brown flax seeds on a spoon and flaxseed oil.
Constipation is an uncomfortable digestive issue that can disrupt routines and feel unpleasant...
5 foods to keep you hydrated Cucumber In Water
Water is the essence of life; we ourselves are made up of between 50 to 75% of the stuff, but with...
Treat symptoms of IBS with the FODMAP Diet Mid section of woman with stomach pain in hotel room
Up to one in five of us are thought to suffer from IBS at some point in our lives, leading to...
"Good" And "Bad" Carbs - What Does It All Mean? Granary Bread On Gray Background With Stop Sign
From banning carbs outright to distinguishing between "good" and "bad" carbs, modern diets today...
Easy ways to increase your fibre intake Collection Of Grain, Cereal, Seed, Bean
Fibre is an important part of a healthy diet, especially as we age. It helps keep our...
Clean Eating: The Basics Tasty Breakfast Of Oat Flakes
The Clean Eating trend has become a  foodie phenomenon - but unlike other fad diets that tell...
Celebrate National Vegetarian Week 2016 Heart shaped food
It's National Vegetarian Week; people across the UK are celebrating the benefits of choosing a...
Inspired by the London Marathon? Try running! Senior Couple Running
Last weekend thousands of runners took over the city of London for the annual Marathon challenge...
The benefits of Pilates on body and mind Group of senior people and young woman and men in fitness gym doing sit-ups on the floor
Exercise is important for everyone, but aerobic exercise can put a lot of strain on the heart...