Size does mat­ter: guide to healthy por­tions pub­lished

The Guardian - - NEWS - Sarah Bose­ley Health ed­i­tor

Nu­tri­tion­ists have is­sued a new guide to por­tion sizes in an ef­fort to com­bat the obe­sity cri­sis, warn­ing that peo­ple of­ten eat too much with­out re­al­is­ing.

The British Nu­tri­tion Foun­da­tion’s (BNF’s) new guide is de­signed, it says, to com­ple­ment the gov­ern­ment’s ad­vice on the sorts of foods to eat, as laid out in the Eatwell Guide. The new guide spec­i­fies how much of each sort of food – starchy car­bo­hy­drates, pro­tein, dairy, fruit and veg­eta­bles and oils and spreads – con­sti­tute a healthy diet within the ad­vised lim­its of 2,000 calo­ries a day for the av­er­age woman and 2,500 a day for the av­er­age man.

Min­is­ters and pub­lic health ex­perts have long been telling us that we eat too much sugar, sat­u­rated fat and salt, but un­til now less at­ten­tion has been paid to the size of por­tions on the plate.

Su­per-siz­ing is clearly out, but por­tion sizes are a puz­zle to many. While an ap­ple or a ba­nana is a por­tion in it­self, the right amount of pasta or rice to cook in the in­ter­ests of stay­ing a healthy weight is more dif­fi­cult to as­sess. Recipes vary and many peo­ple take a guess and throw more into the saucepan if they feel par­tic­u­larly hun­gry. In its new guide, the BNF says the an­swer is 65g to 75g dry weight (180g when cooked) – or about the amount that would fit in two cupped hands.

The guide of­fers spoon and hand mea­sure­ments, which may be eas­ier in daily life than con­tin­u­ally get­ting out the scales. 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”. This ac­knowl­edges that big­ger adults, with big­ger hands, will need larger por­tions. Ched­dar cheese should be no more than “about the size of two thumbs to­gether” and a baked potato “about the size of your fist”.

The gov­ern­ment’s Eatwell Guide says our diet should be made up of one-third fruit and veg­eta­bles, onethird starchy car­bo­hy­drates and the rest split be­tween dairy and pro­tein.

That means, says the BNF, that we can eat five or more serv­ings of fruit and veg­eta­bles, three to four of car­bo­hy­drates such as po­ta­toes, bread, rice and whole­grain pasta, and two to three por­tions each of pro­tein foods and of dairy or al­ter­na­tives .

We do not think about por­tion sizes, says Brid­get Benelam, a BNF nu­tri­tion sci­en­tist. “The amount we put on our plate typ­i­cally de­pends on the por­tion size 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 or ready meal.” She says the BNF looked at data from the na­tional diet and nu­tri­tion sur­vey and found lots of vari­a­tions in the size of por­tions.

“Our sug­gested por­tion size for cooked pasta is 180g (254 calo­ries) but, for ex­am­ple, when we looked at por­tion sizes for spaghetti, the most com­monly con­sumed size was 230g (324 calo­ries), and about 10% of the sam­ple we looked at were con­sum­ing 350g as a por­tion, which would pro­vide nearly 500 calo­ries from the pasta alone, be­fore sauces and sides were added to the meal,” she said.

The guide says that an easy way to

230g The most com­mon por­tion size of spaghetti. The amount sug­gested by nu­tri­tion­ists is 180g, or 22% less

mea­sure of spaghetti is to use your thumb and in­dex fin­ger to hold a bunch the size of a pound coin.

It sug­gests smaller snack por­tions, such as 20g of un­salted nuts and seeds or what fits in the palm of the hand; 55g of re­duced-fat hum­mus (about 2 ta­ble­spoons), four cooked cock­tail sausages or two falafel (40g and 113 calo­ries).

A por­tion of fruit or veg­eta­bles could be two plums or sat­sumas, seven straw­ber­ries, three heaped serv­ing spoons of peas or car­rots, a medium tomato or three sticks of cel­ery.

Treats, says the guide, should be sel­dom, small and up to 150 calo­ries. Ex­am­ples in­clude a small choco­late bis­cuit, a small bag of crisps, four small squares of choco­late or a mini muf­fin.

BNF said the guid­ance was pro­duced with help from a panel of ex­perts and fund­ing from food com­pa­nies and re­tail­ers in­clud­ing Waitrose, Tesco and Marks & Spencer.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: ALI­CIA CAN­TER/GUARDIAN

The rec­om­mended por­tion sizes for whole­wheat pasta, rice, a potato and break­fast ce­real, ac­cord­ing to the BNF

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