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All about portion control



Many of us think we need to starve or overwork ourselves to get results, skip dessert, only eat lettuce leaves and we not allowed to enjoy our food! This is not true, and if anything, this actually makes us put on more weight than we actually lose during this crash dieting. The trick to eating anything…..Portion Control! The principal is that you can eat ALMOST anything but in moderation.


Yes, this is completely true, many people don’t eat enough food, so what happens is the body gets used to not getting food regularly and instead of the body wanting to burn the energy we consume it decides to store it, just in case it’s another length of time before it gets fed again, a routine like this slows ones metabolism down considerably.

What in actual fact we should be doing is eating small regular meals every 3 hours- 3 meals and 2 snacks. The key is to eat foods that will fill you up without eating a large amount of calories. So eating 5 times a day doesn’t mean you’ll pick up weight as long as you sticking to small portions and of the right foods (fruit/vegetables, low GI carbohydrates and overall nutrient dense food), in actual fact, your body’s metabolism will start speeding up and burning off more calories as it’s not afraid of being starved so it uses the calories we eat a lot more freely….leading to weight loss!


This is a great tool to use as a guide to portion control for your cooked meals when you are eating out and even when you are eating in. General principles: ½ plate should be non-starchy vegetables, ¼ plate starch/starchy vegetables (rice, pasta, pap, potatoes, corn, pumpkin, and butternut) and ¼ plate lean protein (fish, red meat, chicken, beans). A glass of yoghurt/milk can be had on the side.


Let me share another simple tool, I’m literally going to give you a helping “hand”. Let see how you can use your hand to help portion your meals.

First let’s start with those beloved starches. A fist or cupped hand is equal to 1 cup. One serving of starch such as rice, pap, pasta or cereal is equal to ½ cup. Starch such as rice, pap, pasta and breads are necessary in the diet because they provide us with our energy. For grains/ starches you need about 6-11 portions per day.

For vegetables two cupped hands equal one cup. Therefore a serving of raw or leafy green vegetables is equal to 1 cup. The same goes for a serving size of chopped fruit. A good size for one serving of fruit is a tennis ball or a fruit that fits in the palm of your hand. You need to try have 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

This is the one we South Africans almost always get wrong. A serving of steak is not meant to be 500g!! A single serving of meat is equal to 30grams. Three portions are equal to the palm of your hand. In a day strive for not more than three palms of meat.

The thumb is also very useful. A thumb is equal to 30grams of cheese. You should be eating 2-3 servings of dairy per day and 45 – 60g of low fat cheese counts as one of these servings. Your thumb tip is equal to 1 teaspoon. This measurement is good for high fat foods that you should keep at a minimum such as peanut butter or mayonnaise. It is also good to know that a tablespoon is equal to 3 teaspoons (your entire thumb).

And I can hear you all asking, what about snacks? Well one handful of snack foods such as nuts or small candy (which I don’t recommend) is equal to 30- 60g. For chips and pretzels, 2 handfuls are equal to 30g. FUTURELIFE high protein lite SmartBars are also a good size to fit n as a snack.


MORE TIPS TO CONTROL YOUR PORTION SIZES:                                                   

  • NEVER skip a meal, especially breakfast
  • Choose a smaller plate to eat off of
  • Never go grocery shopping hungry and always go with a predetermined list
  • Avoid second helpings
  • Swop the potatoes/chips for vegetables
  • Avoid sauces and choose light salad dressings/mayo
  • Eat around a table and not in front of the tv, you tend to overeat when you not seeing how much you are eating
  • Choose low GI/High fibre, keeps you fuller for longer, curbs cravings and prevents you from overeating
  • Be aware of large packages, don’t eat everything in a package, rather portion control it before you start eating and put the rest away, or choose smaller portioned packages
  • Avoid keeping chips, sweets and sugary drinks around the house, you less likely to crave it if you know it’s not in the house


So it’s not always about what you eat, but how much you eat of it! So before you pile a plate full of pasta or grab a whole large packet of your favorite snack, use too much mayonnaise on your sandwich, take a good look at your plate and your hand, and think about how much you really should be eating.

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