Why Portions Matter even when your Food is 'Healthy'

As a coach, I can’t accurately express the number of times that someone has said to me; “I eat really well, I always eat healthy food, but I still can’t seem to lose any weight…”. To many of us, this phenomenon can seem like a complete mystery. Eating ‘clean’, healthy food every day, but the scales just won.t budge? We just can’t seem to get any progress? Well, while the quality of the food you eat is still important (for your overall health, the preservation of lean mass and maintaining good hormone function), when it comes to weight loss, how much you eat is going to be far more significant.

Every piece of food you eat contains calories, and it is those calories, whether they come from a ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ foodstuff, that count. This means that whether you are eating a burger or salad, you need to control the amount you eat. How much you need, and ultimately how many calories you can eat each day are going to depend on a number of different factors: gender, activity level, goals and objectives to name a few.

Swapping your favourite chocolate bar or bag of chips for a handful of almonds or fruit may always seem to be the healthier option (and based on nutritional value they are superior), but if you are looking to lose weight then choosing the right foods is only half the battle. A snickers bar is not more nutritious than handful of almonds, however, if you eat half a bag of almonds you’ll have eaten about 400 calories more than the snickers bar!

Looking at 100g of almonds, it doesn’t seem like an awful lot, but because they are so high in fat (healthy fat as it may be), they are very calorie-dense and thus, very easy to over-consume. The same could be said for eating 4 bananas, some almond/peanut butter or even home-made energy bars. If you are struggling to lose weight then, it is time to start looking at the calorie content of what you are eating, and possibly start measuring out your food to see exactly how much of everything you are having.

If, having done this, you think you are struggling with portion sizes, then it might be an idea to figure out how much you should actually be eating (and what that looks like). Once you know how much you should be eating, then try weighing out your food for a couple of days each week. This way, you will start to understand what an appropriate portion size for you should look like.

If the thought of weighing out your food doesn’t appeal to you, then eating off of a smaller plate could be an alternative method to help you reduce your portion size. A recent study from Cornell University found that people who ate off of smaller plates believed that they were eating an average of 18 percent more calories than they actually were. No plate that you eat off of should be the size of a platter, or a restaurant-sized plate!

The next thing you should be looking to do is to read the recommended serving size… and stick to it. Different products will have different serving sizes, which will be measured in cups, grams, millilitres, pieces, slices, ounces etc. One thing in particular that we have noticed people struggle to portion out is cereal. If you struggle with portioning out certain foods such as cereal, ice cream, bread etc then buy the single serving packets – so the portioning is already done for you!

So, if you are wanting to lose some weight, it might be the right idea to make a commitment to eating appropriate portions. Losing weight does take time, consistency and effort ,so write down your goals to remind yourself why you are doing this and let’s push pass the weight loss plateau!