Portion caution …

2013-12-05 00:00

SILLY season is in full swing and calendars seem packed with end-of-year functions, office parties, dinner parties and the like. Indulging in all the finest fare can quickly become a daily habit. Unfortunately, all it takes is unchecked indulgence, and before we know it, we arrive on January’s doorstep a couple of kilograms heavier.

Prevention is certainly always easier than cure, and today we will take a look at how to survive the festive season without too much damage to the waistline and our health.

Over the years, our perceptions of “fair” portion sizes have constantly been increasing. As society has grown accustomed to super-sizing meals and giant-sized muffins, our food intake has steadily increased, along with our waistlines. Currently, one large pizza is equivalent to about four high-fat meals. Portion control truly can’t be over-emphasised. At each meal, try to keep the starch portion to the size of your fist, the protein serving the size of your palm and the vegetable portion what you can hold in both hands.

Here are some tips to help you keep portions in check when eating out.

• Order a starter as a main meal and add a salad or a side of vegetables.

• When eating out, look at your food once it arrives and mentally assess the size of the portions that are on your plate. Push to the side of the plate whatever is over and above a healthy portion, and take it away in a doggie bag. As a general rule of thumb, halving the meal may not prove too drastic a measure.

• Don’t snack on the fresh bread or rolls brought to your table while you wait for your order. Save some space and savour your meal.

• When eating at home, it can be as easy to over-indulge. Watch out for the slow creep to bigger portions. It takes only an extra 1 000 kJ per day to gain 10 kg in the year — in other words, one cheese sandwich, or a small chocolate bar, or a few extra teaspoons of butter on hot toast or used in cooking is all it takes to overeat.

• Be sure to eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day. This will prevent you from getting too hungry by the next mealtime and will help you to control the amount you eat.

• Dish up onto individual plates instead of using serving dishes on the table. Pack away any leftovers immediately to remove the temptation of having seconds.

• Prepare a large amount of vegetables and salads to serve with every meal. This helps to fill up both the plate and the tummy.

• Dish up your meals onto a smaller plate and use smaller glasses to serve drinks. Using crockery that has a large dark rim is also a good trick as we tend to only plate food into the light area.

• Eat slowly and chew your food very well. By slowing down and thinking about what we eat, we can sometimes halve the amount we need to feel satisfied. Always aim to be the last to finish your meal. Get used to leaving something on your plate as this will help break the habit of eating everything that is dished up, regardless of how full you are.

• Keep treats out of sight, stored in opaque containers. If you’re like me, you will still know they’re there, but it may be easier to resist what you cannot see.

• Try the three-bite rule for truly decadent desserts: the first bite to savour, the second bite to confirm how amazing the dish tastes, and the third bite to say goodbye.

As we face the season where all caution tends to be thrown to the wind, let’s pay attention to our health and avoid unnecessary excesses.

• Sharon Hultzer is a consulting

dietitian. She can be reached at


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