Does portion control typically remind you of weight loss goals, calorie counting and strict serving sizes? It shouldn’t, because correct portion control is about more than how much food you’re eating, but how much of specific food groups you need to be taking in. And that’s important for everyone. Luckily for all of us, there are some reliable guidelines available to ensure our portions are just right. Here’s our healthy guide for how to portion control.
What is proper portion control?
When you portion control, it means you are choosing a suitable amount of food that meets your nutrition goals without you over- or under-consuming. When you’re plating up a meal or reaching for a snack, you’re portioning food. In that moment, you’re making a decision about what will satisfy you and provide you with enough fuel. This is different from serving recommendations you’ll find on the back of food packaging, but understanding both is important for mindful eating and making healthier choices.
Portion control for the 6 essential food groups
Before we delve into actual portion sizes, we need to start with the basics: The 6 food groups. We can’t emphasise enough the importance of including ALL of these kinds of foods in your diet, especially considering restrictive fad diets never seem to go out of style, despite how damaging they can be.
No single food or food group can provide you with all the nutrients you require for good health.The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend a variety of foods from each of the food groups to sufficiently meet your needs. These food groups include:
- Vegetables in every colour, including legumes
- Fruit in every colour
- Wholegrains and high-fibre cereals
- Lean meats, poultry, eggs, tofu
- Dairy and dairy alternatives
- Unsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocado
Based on the above, the average adult should be eating the following each day:
- 5-6 serves of vegetables and/or legumes
- 3-6 serves of wholegrains and high-fibre cereal products
- 2-3 serves of lean meat, poultry, eggs, fish, tofu, legumes
- 3-4 serves of dairy and dairy products
- 2 serves of fruit
- 2-4 serves unsaturated fats
These recommendations are suggestive for average, healthy individuals. If you are underweight, overweight, elderly or have specific needs, we recommend speaking with a dietitian about more tailored serving guidelines.
It is also important to remember that people of different ages and phases in their lives will also have different needs. For example:
- Pregnant women will be more serves, particularly for wholegrains and protein. This is for increased energy needs for a developing baby, as well as to get extra iron and other micronutrients.
- Breastfeeding women need more serves for veggies, grains and protein to support milk production and adequate nutrient intake for both mum and baby.
- People over the age of 70 need fewer serves of certain groups (such as breads/cereals) but higher serves of others (such as dairy)
- Post-menopausal women and men over the age of 70 need to increase foods containing calcium as they are more at risk for fractures and osteoporosis.
So what does a serve look like? Here are some examples of popular foods:
- Most cooked non-starchy vegetables = ½ cup
- Salad/raw veggies = 1 cup
- Most grains = ½ cup cooked
- Bread = 1 slice
- Lean meat = 65g cooked
- Poultry = 80g cooked
- Fish = 100g cooked
- Eggs = 2
- Fruit = 1 medium piece (e.g. apple, banana), 2 smaller pieces (e.g kiwi fruit, plums) or 1 cup chopped
- Milk = 1 cup
- Yoghurt = 200g
- Cheese = 40g (2 standard slices)
- Nuts/seeds = 30g
- Extra virgin olive oil = 1 Tbsp
Our top 5 tips
You don’t have to whip out the scale or the measuring cups every time you eat. Incessantly measuring food or counting calories is not good practice for mindful eating. Use our top tips below to practise getting an eye for serving sizes and dishing up more intuitively.
1. USE THE PLATE FORMULA
As a general rule of thumb, every plate of food you eat you should be:
- 50% colourful veggies
- 25% wholegrain carbohydrate
- 25% lean protein
- PLUS a small serving of healthy fat
This makes it easy to just dish up using your eye.
2. USE YOUR HANDS
Another helpful way to determine portion sizes, is by using your hands to measure. Your protein should be the size of your palm, a fist of carbs, two scooped hands of vegetables and a thumb size portion of fat.
3. DISH UP ON SMALLER PLATES
Whether it’s for a full meal or a snack, try to eat your food from a plate that you’ve dished up rather than out of a packet or box, to eat more mindfully. You can also opt for smaller plates as a method of portion control.
4. TRY VOLUME EATING
100 g of peanut butter and 100 g of baby spinach may weight the same, but their energy density and ability to fill you up are very different. Volume eating involves consuming large volumes of low-energy-density foods. For example, instead of eating a whole pizza, plate up three slices and then fill up from there with a big hearty salad.
5. EAT MINDFULLY
Mindful eating is incredibly important for healthy portion control. Being present while you’re eating and really focusing on the taste, texture and scent of your meal has been found to decrease overeating and extra snacking.
Want more? Follow us on Instagram and never miss a blog post!