Think small, get thin

According to the Dietitians Association of Australia, eating the right amount, rather than piling up the plate, is a key way to reduce your kilojoule intake and manage your weight.

‘We all know fad diets come and go, and usually end in failure. So rather than starting the diet merry-go-round become more aware of the right portion sizes and how much you’re eating,’ said DAA Spokesperson Professor Clare Collins.

Professor Collins said getting back into the kitchen for more home-cooked meals and keeping a check on how much you serve yourself and your family is a good place to start.

But according to Professor Collins, there’s more to this story.

‘Research shows that substituting vegetables, and other low-kilojoule, nutrient-rich foods, for those that are ‘energy-dense’ is the way to go. This helps to fill you up, without tipping the scales in the wrong direction.

Aim for 2-3 or more cups of vegetables or salad a day. At the moment, most Aussie get nowhere near that. So a simple step when cooking at home is to start your meal with a salad or add an extra serve of vegetables to your main meal. Let vegetables fill at least half your plate.

Research has found Australians typically overestimate portion sizes, especially for foods like pasta (a good guide is about a cup) and chocolate (should be no bigger than half a small chocolate bar), compared to what health authorities recommend, and this can lead to ‘kilo creep’ over time.

‘When there’s more food on the plate or when we use bigger plates and bowls, we eat more. The difference between one and two cups of pasta at dinner is around 870kJ. If you eat a double portion size on a daily basis those extra kilojoules could see you gain around 1-2 kilos a month if you don’t burn this off doing extra exercise.

‘To eat less without thinking about it, switch to using smaller plates so you don’t notice you’re serving yourself less food,’ said Professor Collins.


Here are some practical tips for portion control from Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs):

• At a buffet, take a walk around and decide what you want first. Then serve yourself the fruit, salad and vegetable items before the other dishes.

• For nuts, pre-portion them into small containers to make a handy snack. The small décor storage dressing containers, available at the supermarket, hold 25-30 grams. Clare Collins FDAA and APD.

• Listen to your stomach and stop eating when it signals you’re full. This may mean leaving food on your plate which is hard for many to do.

• Eat slowly and pay attention to the food in front of you. Don’t eat mindlessly as you’ll exceed your natural point of fullness. Catherine Saxelby APD.

• Use your hand as a good measure of portion. A balled up fist is roughly a serving of carbohydrate food (pasta, rice, potato, sweet potato), the palm of the hand is roughly the serving size of protein (meat, chicken or fish), and the bowl of both hands is a serving of veggies. The fist can also be a good measure for a medium size piece of fruit. Kate Gudorf APD.

• Snack in 100 calorie portions. One large fruit (eg. banana = two small fruit (eg. kiwi fruit) = one slice of wholegrain bread = 100g yoghurt = 14 almonds/cashews. Read food labels for more ideas. Amanda Clark AdvAPD.

• Plan to include at least half a plate of colourful vegetables or salad with every meal.

• Focus on food quality, not quantity, and take the time to savour and enjoy the smell, taste and texture of every mouthful. Katherine Baqleh APD.

• Swap large plates or deep bowls for plates that are 22-25cm in diameter. Sara Grafenauer APD.

• Try eating more regular meals/snacks over the day to help regulate your appetite. This may help avoid overeating at your next meal. Julie Martin APD.

• Lean meat portions the size of your palm are perfect. Cut yours down to size and save the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Sally Marchini APD.

• Leave a cup measure in your cereal box to scoop out the right portion each morning. Jacqui Heward APD.

• Try using a smaller dinner plate when you dish up your meals. Julie Martin APD.

• If you’re eating out, avoid ordering larger serves of meats and pastas when hungry, instead order extra side vegetables.

Themis Chryssidis APD