What is the optimum Portion Size
to build strong, healthy bodies?

So what is the optimum Portion Size for a strong, healthy body?  Obviously this will depend on age, gender and how active you are, but brings us back to the basic truth that we need to burn off what we eat, otherwise we will gain weight. 

Being aware of portion sizes is an important step to building strong, healthy bodies.  As we age there is also the added complication of our metabolism changing, so we need to adjust what we are eating and how much in order to stay healthy.

Ever noticed that dinner plates seem to be getting larger?  If you’ve ever looked at Nan’s old dinner set that she got as a wedding present, you’ll notice that modern crockery (plates and bowls) tends to be significantly larger. 

In days gone by we would fill these smaller plates and that would be our ‘portion control’.  If we fill our plates today, we are actually eating more.  Given our generally more sedentary lifestyle, this combination can result in extra kilos if we’re not sufficiently active.  So we need a different measure.

How would your life and body change if you:

  • Only ate when you were hungry;
  • Only ate until you were no longer hungry; and
  • Didn’t continue eating until you were full?

Being conscious of our portions is half the battle. Once again the food diary can help us highlight areas to focus on.

Strategies to Monitor Portion Sizes

There are various strategies to monitor portion sizes including:

1. Become familiar with the portion guides. There are lots of references on the Internet, but as a starting point for adults:

  • Protein:  palm sized portion
  • Carbohydrates:  fist sized portion; and
  • Vegetables:  2 cupped hands sized portion.

2. Use the Serving sizes on the packaging as a guideline.

3. Weigh or measure your food. 

4. Only eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied (not full).  Aim to stop when your tummy feels about half full.  Some people have never felt hungry, so if that’s you become aware of what hungry, not hungry, full and over full (stuffed!) feel like.

5. When serving a meal, use a smaller plate or don’t fill the larger plate.   I make a deliberate effort to leave a good border around the edge of the plate and present the food around the centre of the plate.   Some may find it useful to use a portion control plate, which is smaller and divided into ½ for salad and/or vegetables, ¼ for protein and ¼ for carbohydrate. 

6. To assist in healthy weight loss for adults, portions can be reduced gradually where necessary.  Please be sure your body is still receiving adequate nutrition.  The aim here is not to fit into the latest size 0 dress, but to build a strong, healthy body and enhance your natural shape.  Click here for more on healthy eating to lose weight.

7.  Children should be served smaller portion sizes to adults.  A smaller plate (or a childrens plate) can help with this.

Important:   Unless obesity is an issue, or recommended by your health care professional, I would be reluctant to restrict  children's meat and vegetable portions.  Children need good nutrition and will usually only eat what they need (assuming portion sizes are age appropriate and a healthy level of daily activity).  I have found the portion size can vary considerably dependant on age/developmental stages (eg growth spurts, puberty) so be prepared to roll with it.  

However, we do have a home rule that if you don’t eat your meat and vegetables you can’t have dessert, the reasoning being that you mustn’t be hungry (and you shouldn’t eat if you’re not hungry!). 

Sometimes the child returns wanting something different.  That’s fine - they can be given the same meal to finish.  I personally didn’t want to encourage fussy eaters or get into the habit of serving different food for individual family members (more on this later).   

Happy Healthy Eating!