Controlling your portions doesn’t mean you need to eat tiny amounts or measure out precisely the number of peas on your plate! However, we know that having a better understanding of healthy portion sizes helps prevent over-eating and weight gain. As we are now working from home a lot more, many people that would normally be eating in canteens and cafes are now preparing all meals from scratch at home. The portions served in canteens and cafes can be far greater than we need and we can get into a habit of viewing these larger portions as normal. Now might be as good time as any to retrain your brain to become satisfied on slightly less.
Use the Croí portion plate as a portion guide at mealtimes
Aim to fill your plate as follows:
- Half plate of vegetables/salad
- Quarter plate of wholegrain carbohydrates
- Quarter plate of protein
Here are some tips to try:
- Use a smaller plate: A standard-sized serving will look small on a large plate, making you feel dissatisfied. Use a smaller plate to prevent overloading. A general rule of thumb for a dinner plate size is 9 inches (23 cm) in diameter.
- Use measuring cups for your carbs: If you are finding it difficult to gauge the right amount of pasta or rice to eat, try using measuring cups. A 200ml size mug is equivalent to 1 serving of cooked rice or pasta. (See the serving size guide for other food groups below).
- Check the label: Make sure you know what portion the nutritional information on the pack relates to. It might be different to the amount you would normally serve yourself. Many products are packaged for sharing but will state a recommended serving quantity per person.
- Smart Snacking: Be mindful of falling into a grazing/snacking habit at home. If you do choose a snack, aim for 150kcal (calories) per snack. This could be a low-fat yogurt and a piece of fruit, 2 rice crackers and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter/hummus, or 1 matchbox size of cheese and a small handful of grapes.
- Leave the leftovers: Portion leftovers into a container and store in the fridge or freezer straight away so you’re not tempted to have seconds.
- The 20 minute rule: Think you haven’t had enough? Wait for about 20 minutes before reaching for a second helping. It can take a little while for you to feel full after you have eaten. So avoid the temptation to keep eating and see if you get that feeling.
- Slow down: Many of us can eat very quickly or eat while distracted at our desks or while watching TV. Our brain doesn’t get the chance to register this eating occasion. If we eat too quickly, we have usually over-eaten by the time our brain and tummy start to register this and we can feel uncomfortably full or suffer from indigestion. Slowing down the rate of eating actually helps us to enjoy our food and feel more satisfied on less.
- Keep meal-times regular: Delaying eating for longer than 4-5 hours can have a knock on effect of eating larger portions sizes or less healthy food choices grab a ‘quick fix’ when hunger suddenly takes hold. Developing a structure on your day at home and scheduling time to prepare and eat your meals will help control your appetite and prevent over-eating or excess snacking.
This serving guide from the Department of Health / HSE 2016 Healthy Eating Guidelines, provides a handy visual for what servings of each food group should look like. For more information on the number of recommended daily servings per food group, based on your age, gender and activity level, click here.