Portion sizes of all kinds of packaged foods and meals have gotten bigger with clever marketing being a big factor in this. I know that the dinner plates and bowls in my cupboards are significantly larger than the dinner sets that my grandparents had. My side plates are not much smaller than their dinner plates were! Our pumped up portion sizes have gone mostly unnoticed, although it is very difficult to ignore the hugely increased rates of obesity in the Australian population.
Not giving a lot of thought to how and what you eat has been coined mindless eating and there is no doubt that many of us engage in lots of it, frequently. This mindless eating, results in less attention to the portion sizes we are eating.
Availability and visual triggers are key to how much we eat. In one of his research studies, author and professor Dr Brian Wansink, looked at the office candy jar and how irresistible it is to almost everyone. This study, which followed 40 secretaries over 4 weeks in the US, found that participants consistently ate more of the chocolate and lollies if they were in a clear container rather than opaque plus they wouldn't usually eat them if the lollies weren’t there.
To avoid the portion size pit, consider the following tips:
- Have one or several containers that you can use to store your lunch and snacks. Placing food into portion-controlled containers reduces overeating.
- Bulk up your snacks or lunch with fresh salad and vegetables prepared the night before, as they are a valuable source of fibre, vitamins and minerals.
- Don’t eat food directly out of the packet, as it is too easy to just keep eating it. Common culprits include nuts and other savoury snacks.
- If you are purchasing your lunch and have the option of small, medium or large serves, chose the small or medium and add salad or vegetables to bulk up your meal.
- Don’t forget to drink water. Sometimes we confuse thirst with hunger and eat rather than have the glass of water that our bodies really want.
- Eating slowly and focusing on your food will allow time for your brain to register that your stomach is full. Plus eating more slowly allows you the time to enjoy and actually chew your food. Quite handy really!
If you are already one of our valued customers, keeping portions in check is probably one of the reasons you are part of our gang – this is important to us too.
Written by Julie Meek, Kale & Co's Nutritionist and Accredited Practising Dietician.