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Portion Control – Are your eyes bigger than your belly?

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It’s a common problem for us lovers of food, that it can often be hard to say no to seconds, and when food is infront of you we tend to ‘pick’ and overindulge when in reality are stomachs are more than full. It takes self-control to put back that extra portion, or stop yourself from reaching for a naughty dessert but modern day society doesn’t seem to help us either!

Back in a modern kitchen, you suddenly notice how large everything is – 28cm has become a normal diameter for a dinner plate, which in the 1950s would have been 25cm. Serving on these large plates doesn’t mean that we have to serve ourselves bigger portions, but we generally tend to! Brian Wansink is a psychologist (author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think) who has done numerous experiments to prove what you would hope common sense might already tell us: that oversized tableware makes us consume bigger portions. Take for example, a large ice-cream scoop makes you take more ice-cream; a short glass makes you pour more juice. This is because it doesn’t look as much, so we  feel we are consuming roughly the same amount.

What a recommended portion actually looks like

nutrition

It seems that the only people who are immune to big portions are tiny children. Up until the age of three or four, children have an enviable ability to stop eating when they are full. After that age, this self-regulation of hunger is lost, and sometimes never relearned. This is a cross-cultural phenomenon, from London to Beijing. One study from the US found that when three-year olds were served small, medium and larger portions of macaroni cheese, they always ate roughly the same amount. By contrast, five-year-olds ate a lot more when the portion of macaroni cheese was oversized.

In a world where food is ever-present, many of us have become like Alice in Wonderland, controlled by cakes that say Eat Me and bottles that say Drink Me. As the nutritionist Marion Nestle remarked 10 years ago in her book, What to Eat: “It is human nature to eat when presented with food, and to eat more when presented with more food.” The trouble is that we are pushed more food, more often, every day. In 2013, the British Heart Foundation published a report called Portion Distortion on how portion sizes in Britain have changed since 1993. Back then, the average American-style muffin weighed 85g, whereas 20 years later it was not uncommon to find muffins weighing 130g. Ready meals have also ballooned in size, with chicken pies expanding by 49% and the average shepherd’s pie nearly doubling in size since 1993 (from 210g to 400g).

over

Our problem with portions and portion control, is partly this: no one likes the concept of “less”. We are conditioned from childhood onwards to yearn for the overflowing glass and the laden table. An easy way to address this at home is simply to use smaller tableware.

Often at the end of a meal, you may not really be hungry but yearn for something sweet. First of all, ensure you are keeping hydrated and drinking enough water throughout the day too as thirst can often be mistaken for hunger. Once you have finished a meal, enjoy your favourite herbal tea or fruit flavour infused water. If you still are craving that sweet treat, then opt for a healthy version of your favourite indulgent treat such as our Giving Tree snacks which are the same nutrition as fresh and SO tasty. If you fancy that chocolate bar, then allow yourself a few squares instead of the whole block!

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