t's easy to make resolutions about following complex diets or going to the gym five times a week, but we all know that the best way to maintain your weight is simply by eating healthier. And one of the most effective steps to take where that's concerned is to make sure you're not over - or under- doing your portion sizes.
But how much should we actually be eating? Of course, the answer is different for every individual - as height, build and activity levels are all factors. For example, a 6'2” man who plays sport three times a week will need to eat more than a 5'4” woman who sticks to gentle walking.
Many of us have been conditioned to eat bigger portion sizes than we truly require, either by parents growing up or by society. But there are simple changes you can make to start reducing portion sizes and figuring out your body's own needs.
Geeta Sidhu-Robb, celebrity nutritionist and founder of Nosh Detox told Cosmopolitan UK: “If you have a larger plate of food, you are likely to finish it even if you aren’t still hungry. It takes your stomach 20 minutes to work out that it's full and send you that message. But for many of us, our meals don’t even last that long.
“Controlling your portions can help with your relationship with food.”.
Taking steps to control your portion sizes can feel like a daunting prospect, but it could also be the kick-start your body needs to feel less sluggish.
How to control your portion sizes
Eat half a plate of green leaves at every meal.“The remaining half of the plate should be fats, carbs, protein,”says Geeta. This one will also help give your skin a glow.
For snacks, keep your portion sizing to the size of your closed fist. Surprisingly,you're likely to burn more calories in the late afternoon and early evening than in the morning, and snacking smart will help you feel fuller for longer.
Eat a piece of ripe fruit before every meal. Geeta suggests “alternating colours to get all your vitamins and minerals.” A banana for breakfast, orange before lunch and apple before you tuck into dinner doesn't sound like a bad way to snack, actually.
Eat slowly. Bad news for those who grew up with greedy older siblings; you could be doing yourself an injustice by gobbling your meals too quickly. “Eating slower will suppress the hunger hormone, ghrelin,” Geeta explans.“These hormones are what sends messages to your brain to tell it you’ve eaten which will reduce your appetite.
“This process takes about 20 minutes, so eating slowly will help give your brain time to receive these signals from the hormones.”
Drink a glass of water half an hour before each meal.To be honest, just drinking more water would benefit most of us, but Geeta explains: “A lot of the time when we think we are hungry, we are actually dehydrated so drinking water first will help you recognise if you are truly ready to eat or not.”
Incorporate good fats into every meal. Good fats, such as avocado and nuts, can be hugely beneficial," Geeta explains: “Fat increases feelings of fullness, and takes up to 4hours to digest so you stay fuller longer.”
However,there is such a thing as eating too much good fat– so, keeping an eye on those portion sizes is important.
Why do we overestimate our portion sizes?
According to Geeta, it's a habit that starts for most at an early age.
“A US study found that when three-year-olds were served small, medium and large portions of macaroni cheese, they ate roughly the same amount,” she explained. “This, however, changed with five-year-olds when the study discovered the more they had on their plate, the more they would eat.
“As we grow older we don’t tend to eat based on our hunger levels, but more so based on how much is on our plate. So the danger here is overeating, and all of the health implications that come with it; such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease as well as affecting our mental health.”
The good news is, it is possible to retrain your brain and change the eating habits of a lifetime – and what better time than the new year to get started?
If you're worried about managing your food intake or over or under-eating, visit your GP for help and advice.
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