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healthy portion control guide

26th April 2017 by Jess

Looking to lose weight without feeling hungry? Our nutritionist tells us it's all about sensible portion sizes. And it’s easier than you think to eyeball a portion size, just try some of these handy techniques.

portion infographic

Portion control in a balanced diet

First things first, let’s address the elephant in the room - weight loss. The phrase “portion control” is often translated as “how to eat less”. In reality, following a loose portion guide will help you to make the best choices and follow a more balanced diet throughout the day.

Of course, if you’re a bigger person, you probably have a bigger hand. And if you’re a smaller person… well, you get the idea. This guide gives you a portable device for measuring your specific intake based on your body size that doesn’t involve calorie counting.

Jess, graze nutritionist

Note that depending on your health goals and medical requirements, you may require multiple portions. In general men are recommended to have two portions of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and fruit, whilst women are recommended to have one portion of each.

Remember that portions should be down-sized for kids compared to adult portion sizes.

Kids on the whole tend to be a lot more active compared to adults so the carbohydrate content can be more generous, compared to adults who lead a more sedentary lifestyle.

Dried fruit, crackers etc, could feature far more in a kids snacking menu compared to adults who, depending on their level of exercise, would be better sticking to protein, healthy fats and lower sugar snacks.

Other portion control tips:

  • Start reading food labels - one packet will often hold more than one serving.
  • Pre-portion - instead of eating from a large bag or tub, plate up the amount you would want to eat and put the large bag or tub away so you’re not tempted to have more.
  • Eat slowly - chew your food at least 15-20 times to give your stomach time to digest and recognise that it’s full before going back for more.
  • Stay hydrated - our bodies often confuse thirst for hunger, so try tackling that craving with a big drink of water or cup of herbal tea.
protein sources

Protein

A balanced diet should include a portion of protein for every meal. To maximise the nutritional benefits, your best options are foods that are high in protein such as: fish, meat, tofu, beans, lentils, yoghurt, eggs, nuts, and seeds.

One serving or portion of meat or fish is about the size of the palm of your hand, or your average deck of cards.

Add to this a portion of slow release carbs which could be root vegetables or whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa and two portions of veg, aiming for greens wherever possible and you’ve got yourself a perfect plate!

Our nutritionist’s favourite protein sources:

  • Fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, and shellfish)
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey)
  • Eggs (boiled or poached)
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, & walnuts )
  • Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chia & hemp)
  • Legumes (including beans, lentils & pulses)
protein diet guide
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Carbs

Each meal should include a portion of carbohydrates which can include starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, regular potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips etc, through to whole grains such as brown rice, oats & pastas.

One serving or portion of root vegetables or grains is half a cup, which is about the size of your closed fist, or the average computer mouse.

Bread is not a necessary part of a healthy diet, however if you do include it, one serving is the size of your open hand, excluding bagels which are much more dense.

We love complex carbohydrates, as they are much higher in fibre than refined carb options. Our nutritionist Jess is a big believer in the benefits of dietary fibre, which is why you’ll find her “source of fibre” badge on many of our exciting snacks.

And opting for more fibre rich foods is easier than you might think! Simply swapping plain flour for whole grain goes a long way to increasing the fibre in your daily diet, like brown bread instead of white.

Our nutritionist’s favourite wholegrain carbohydrates:

  • Quinoa
  • Whole oats
  • Sweet potato
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Barley
read more about fibre
vegetables

Veg

Veggies such as spinach, carrots, broccoli and salad so abundant in nutrients that we’ve created a category for them altogether.

It can be useful to break them down into starchy and non-starchy vegetables so you can include them as part of your carbohydrate count.

One serving or portion of root vegetables like sweet potato, parsnip or carrot, is half a cup, which is about the size of your closed fist, or the size of a baseball and this counts towards your carb portion as mentioned above.

A serving or portion of leafy veg such as rocket, salad, spinach, kale, is the size of your open hand, or two tennis balls.

You may have heard that the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables has gone from 5 to 10!

Smoothies, vibrant lunchtime salads and raw veg with hummus or a bean dip mid-afternoon are all such easy ways to up the veggies count day to day. Green, red, yellow and orange veggies are packed with fibre and loaded with B vitamins, so the best thing to do is pack your plate with a rainbow of veg.

The best nutritionally-dense veg:

  • Red pepper
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Green peas
  • Seaweed
what you should know about fruit & veg
fruity bowl

Fruits

Fresh fruits are natural nutrient powerhouses. They contain the vitamins, minerals, nutrients and fibre to drive all of our billions of chemical reactions going on every second in our bodies. They are also amazing sources of energy, helping fuel our every move.

One serving or portion of fruit should be the size of your closed fist, or the size of a baseball.

Smoothies, juices and salads are great ways to get these in, and you can even add an extra nutrient boost with a punnet of graze pure dried fruit.

The best nutritionally-dense fruit:

  • Blueberries
  • Blackcurrants
  • Sour cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits
how to build a smoothie
peanut butter

Fats

For fat dense foods like oils, butters, nut butters, nuts and seeds, use your entire thumb to determine your portion size.

Oils rich in omega-3 are important to include as part of a balanced diet, as food is the only place our bodies can get this important nutrient and it is often lacking in our modern Western diets.

Best Omega-3 rich heart healthy fats:

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Snacks

When choosing the right snacks to carry you over between meals, always make sure you read the ingredients on the label. Look for snacks with vitamins, minerals, protein, and essential fats.

The most satisfying and efficient snacks have a balance of protein, great fats and fibre. These three combined will carry you through to your next meal nicely, so aim for nuts, seeds, chickpeas, dips & fresh veg.

click here to shop all snacks

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By Jess, graze nutritionist.

Our nutritionist extraordinaire, Jess trained at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and is a registered practitioner with the British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She's the creator of our health badges, to help you choose the snacks and boxes that are right for you. Check out everything from Jess on our blog, with recipes and tricks to help you keep making better choices, or go to Jess's blog at jessipes.co.uk for even more.

view all posts by Jess

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