WHEN PORTION SIZES GO WRONG
Thursday, January 29, 2009.
Every week, we receive e-mails from frustrated dieters who just don’t seem to be able to lose weight no matter how hard they try. They watch what they’re eating, take regular exercise but still don’t lose weight. Incorrect portion sizes really can make or break a diet and a chip here and spoon of dressing there really do make such a difference.
What happens When Portion Sizes Go Wrong? Well, let’s take a few examples:
The normal serving size for salad dressing is about 1 teaspoon. One serving would provide 45 calories. If you doubled this, the dressing alone in your salad would give you almost 100 calories!
The normal serving size for a hamburger is usually stated as 2 oz (50 grams) but many restaurants will serve burgers that are 6 or 8 oz. A 2 oz burger will provide you with about 150 calories and 13 grams of fat, while an 8 oz burger will bump that up to a scary 590 calories and 50 grams of fat. That’s before you eat anything else!
Luckily, here in the UK, crisps are normally served in 25 gram bags. This makes controlling your portion sizes much easier. Beware however, the party sized bags. Twenty five grams is approximately a large handful and provides you with 130 calories and 9 grams of fat. If you dip into a large bag two or three times you could increase the damage to 300-400 calories and 20-30 grams of fat, so be careful!
Chocolate is a food that is high in fat and calories but luckily there is plenty of choice in terms of the portions we can buy and eat. A treat size bar of Cadbury’s chocolate is 15 grams and packs just 79 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. The standard size on the other hand weighs 54 grams and will set you back 286 calories and 16 grams of fat.
It can be easy to go wrong with some of our staple foods too. An average serving of mashed potato weighs 180 grams and is three scoops. Increasing that to 5 scoops increase your fat intake by 5 grams and your energy intake by 130 calories.
The average serving size for cooked rice is 180 grams (this is around ½ a cup of uncooked rice). This will give you 250 calories and 2 grams of fat. In the take-away however, you could be served as much as 300 grams of rice which is almost enough for two people (414 calories and 4 grams of fat).
When curries are served in restaurants and takeaways portions can also be disproportionately large. The average serving for vegetable curry for example is listed as 200 grams (210 calories and 15 grams of fat) whereas a take-away serving could be 300 grams and provide 315 calories and 22 grams of fat.
Since it slips down so easily, it’s not difficult to go badly wrong with ice cream. The average serving is about 75 grams (a little over 2 scoops). This would give you 145 calories and just over 7 grams of fat. It’s not unusual, however, to be served 3 scoops of ice cream, which would drastically increase your fat intake by around 10 grams and your energy intake by 200 calories.
While it may not be something that springs to mind immediately, bread can sometimes be served in rather large quantities. To illustrate this, choosing a sandwich made with two slices of medium cut sliced bread means the bread weighs 72 grams and provides 1 gram of fat and 170 calories, while choosing a sandwich made with a 6 inch diameter bap provides 2 grams of fat and 263 calories from the bread alone!
The recommended serving size for cheese is 40 grams. Many people could use up to four slices this size to fill a sandwich. Four ounces (100 grams) of cheddar gives a whopping 39 grams of fat and 460 calories compared to 20 grams of fat and 230 calories in a two-ounce serving.
A few last tips:
- Measure once. Spend a week or so weighing and measuring everything you eat and try to remember what it looks like. This will help you get an idea of how much your dishes, bowls and glasses will hold once. After that, visualize the portion size.
- Use smaller plates and dishes so your portions won't look lost.
- Choose snacks that are packed in individual portion sizes to prevent over eating, for example, a 125 gram pot of yogurt, biscuits and crackers that are available wrapped in twos or threes like fig rolls or jaffa cakes.