Choose your portion with caution

Posted on 20 November 2013

Research shows that South Africans are increasingly overweight or obese. Here’s how you can control your portions for a healthier lifestyle.

There are several reasons why our portions have become distorted. Firstly, people are eating out and buying fast foods more often. These meals are larger than normal, healthier portion sizes but are generally eaten in full. To get value for money, people often buy snacks that are packaged in bigger-than-normal portion sizes but don’t repackage or serve them in smaller portions. Using large plates and containers to serve foods can also cause overeating. Lastly, many people don’t know when they have eaten enough and continue eating until they are too full.

Controlling portion size is one way to manage your weight but it’s important to remember that there are a number of reasons why people become overweight or obese. These include:
•    Eating large amounts of food (food portions).
•    Eating high-energy foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt.
•    Not eating a variety of food from the different food groups.
•    Not drinking enough fluid, especially water.
•    Not getting enough regular physical activity.

How do I control size of portions I eat?
Here are some useful tips you can start incorporating into your lifestyle:
•    Eat a variety of food and try to include foods from at least two food groups at each meal.
•    Stick to regular mealtimes and eat small snacks if you feel hungry between meals.
•    Use smaller plates, containers, cutlery, glasses and mugs – this will make your plate look ‘fuller’.
•    Serve the correct portions of food onto the individual plates, instead of putting the serving dishes on the table – you may be tempted to have seconds if the dishes are in sight.
•    Be aware your body may only experience feeling ‘full’ sometime after eating, so eat slowly, chew properly and pay attention to your body’s internal cues to avoid overeating.
•    Eating in front of the TV means you are distracted and not paying attention to your body’s signals of becoming ‘full’. As result, you may find yourself overeating.
•    Eat supper at a set table and really celebrate the meal – savour the food you’re eating and the time you’re spending with your family.
•    When you eat out, share large portions and don’t feel as though you have to finish a meal – ask for a ‘doggy bag’.
•    If you’re eating or snacking in front of the TV, put a small amount of food in a bowl or container and put the rest away.
•    Snack foods that are bought in bulk should be portioned into individual-sized bags. Store large containers out of sight in a storage closet, cabinet, or garage to discourage yourself from unintentional overeating.
•    Remember that if you don’t buy it you won’t be tempted to eat it.
•    Keep healthier foods within easy reach so when you reach for a snack, you’ll be more likely to eat more of these foods. Place fruit in a large bowl on the counter and serve cut vegetables as the family arrives home from school or work; keep healthy foods more visible in the fridge and put the more tempting foods in the drawers or at the bottom of the fridge.
•    Before grabbing a snack, ask yourself if you’re truly hungry or if you’re just thirsty, emotional or eating out of habit. Eat less by not using food to cope or to distract you.


The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

Published in Nutrition