Nutritionists launch portion size guide to tackle obesity

New guidance advising on portion size has been launched by the British Nutrition Foundation [Photo: Getty]
New guidance advising on portion size has been launched by the British Nutrition Foundation [Photo: Getty]

Obesity has been clocking up headlines recently.

From whether it should be classed as a disease, to how to cut our children’s sugar intake, barely a day passes without some reference to tackling the health crisis.

And now experts have suggested in order to lower growing rates of obesity we should be looking not just at what people are eating but also how much.

A new survey by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has revealed that many Brits don’t know what constitutes a healthy portion size.

With the new figures in mind, nutrition scientists have devised a new guide, which provides new methods of measuring out food portions – using your hands, thumbs and fists rather than weighing scales.

Experts believe better portion control could lead to people being healthier, therefore taking pressure off the NHS.

The ‘Find Your Balance’ guide uses simple hand and spoon measurements to help people to estimate appropriate portions when both cooking and serving food.

Following an analysis of portion sizes around the world, guidance was developed on how often to eat foods from the main food groups offering advice on sensible portion sizes for healthy adults, based on an average daily allowance of 2,000 calories.

In order to provide practical ways of estimating these portions without having to weigh foods, the BNF devised easy to use measures for most foods, based on hands or spoons.

The new guidance uses hands and spoons to help people better measure their portion sizes [Photo: BNF]
The new guidance uses hands and spoons to help people better measure their portion sizes [Photo: BNF]

The BNF survey suggested that when it comes to eating pasta, on average we eat around 230g worth when cooked, though 10% of the people questioned eat 350g.

But their recommendation is just 180g.

According to the guide, the correct portion size for pasta is two hands cupped together.

A finger and thumb, meanwhile, is the right amount of spaghetti we should be throwing in the pan.

And cheese lovers might be perplexed because the right amount of cheese we should be eating is a mere two thumbs worth.

The suggested single portion of a grilled chicken breast, a cooked salmon fillet or a cooked steak is about half the size of your hand, while a baked potato should be “about the size of your fist”.

Snacks aren’t entirely banned from the new guidance either, but they need to be kept quite small at around 100 to 150 calories, and we shouldn’t be consuming them too frequently.

Examples included a small chocolate biscuit bar, a small multipack bag of crisps, four small squares of chocolate (20g) or a mini muffin, 20g of unsalted nuts and seeds or the amount that fits into the palm of the hand, which will be between 113 and 137 calories.

Are our portions too big? [Photo: Getty]
Are our portions too big? [Photo: Getty]

The BNF plans to release its guidance in three formats: a fridge poster which provides an overview of the advice; a booklet which expands on how to put the portion guidelines into practice; and a longer, downloadable, digital resource, with further advice on portion sizes.

Commenting on the new guidance Bridget Benelam, nutrition communications manager at the BNF, said: “More often than not, portion size is not something people give much thought to.

“The amount we put on our plate typically depends on the portion sizes we are used to consuming, how hungry we feel and how much is offered as a helping at a restaurant table or in a packet/ready meal.

“Nonetheless, in order to maintain a healthy weight we should ensure that our diets contain the right balance of foods, in sensible amounts.

“This isn’t just about eating less; it’s also about eating differently.”

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