Even the healthiest of eaters can have too much of a good thing Nutritional Therapist Alex Rogers explains how monitoring and being mindful of your portions is key to both weight control and ensuring you get enough, but not too much, of the good stuff.
You've cut out your sugary snacks, binned the processed foods and trashed the takeout menus. But eating the right amount of food is just as important as eating the right type of food. Often if you're struggling to lose or maintain your weight your portion sizes could be to blame. So how much should we be eating and how can we make sure we're not over eating?
We all need a certain amount of calories each day, even if we're not moving about a lot those calories provide energy for our involuntary muscle movements; to keep our hearts beating and our lungs breathing for example and for cell repair and growth. For everyone that's a different amount but the UK average guideline that's between 2,000-2,500 however it's important to recognise that this average is not necessarily what YOU need. It's also important that you know your needs will change over time, as often as daily if you workout and as you grow older, every year it becomes slightly less.
Your weight is one of the best ways to guide you as to whether you are eating the right amount or not. All food contains calories, whether it's healthy or not. And if you follow a healthy diet, eat all the good stuff, keep it as natural as possible but you're still gaining or not losing, you may simply be eating too much of that good thing. If this is the case for you we recommend using apps like MyFitnessPal to give you some idea of the calorie payload of your meals and snacks, keeping a close eye on this for a couple of weeks to a month will help you understand your intake better. But don't worry, you won't have to do this forever, just a short stint will help you get back on track.
Everything in moderation I hear that phrase a lot, but it's not strictly true. Our bodies need less of some things and more of others so we teach our clients to understand which food groups they need more or less of using the Eatwell Plate. But we still often see that over time some food groups get reduced and others creep back up. The main group everyone seems to struggle with is fruit and vegetables.
To get your 5-a-day you need to eat 5 80g portions of fruit and veg a day, fresh, frozen and tinned all count, as do smaller portions of dried fruit and beans also count as one portion. Smoothies and juices when shop bought can contain lots of added sugar and chemicals, but when made at home with fresh ingredients count as one of your 5, but only ever one. If you're downing them multiple times a day you may just be adding more calories. One 150ml juice or smoothie a day is enough.
And for those who come to us after years of failed dieting we also see a common trend of skipping or only consuming small amounts of our body's primary energy source, carbohydrates. Doing that over a long period can ultimately result in an undeniable urge to binge on fast acting carbs like sweets, cakes, chocolate etc which ultimately undoes any good work and effort put in. So maintaining balance is more important than moderating everything.
Cooking for yourself and others We advocate mindful eating, eating on purpose not out of a reaction to hunger. And in order to do that the first rule of thumb is to be prepared. That means applying a little bit of planning to what you're going to eat, making sure you've prepped it ahead if you (like most people) are short of time, and making your healthy choices ahead of time, before hunger strikes. And it works, it's worked for hundreds of clients over the last five years and it's enabled them to develop good habits which keep them healthy for life. However, during the main meal times is where 'balance' and 'moderation' meet. Here's my top tips to avoiding over eating when cooking for yourself, your family or your guests.
Dish to the table Dishing to serving bowls in the middle of the table encourages everyone to only take what they're going to eat, saves waste and discourages cleaning their plate out of courtesy. If you have youngsters in the house this teaches them to understand how to stop when they're full. Use smaller plates Most dinner plates on the market are huge and every year they seem to be getting bigger. If you use a big plate as your guide then you will eat bigger portions. Even using a slightly smaller plate can make a big impact.
Fill half your plate with vegetables Or more, eat as many as you want. Fruits and vegetables contain calories, but relatively low amounts compared to what else goes on you plate. What's more they are nutrient dense, they're full of all the good stuff your body needs so eat more of them for a healthier life. They'll also go a long way to filling you up so if you're going to eat til you're full, fill up on green things (other colours are available).
The rest of your plate Just over a quarter carbohydrates Not just chips or potatoes. Think grains: Pasta, quinoa, bulgar wheat, couscous and rice, all can be flavoured with herbs and spices and citrus juices for flavour. And always whole grains. They contain substantially higher levels of nutrients and and fibre, take longer to digest meaning you'll stay fuller for longer and your energy level won't drop off a cliff leading to late night snacking
The rest protein Lean protein; fish, chicken, turkey and legumes like beans. Plant based protein sources can be just as high in protein as red meat, sometimes higher. Whoever told you 'meat and two veg' got it wrong. Bean burgers, Falaffel, hummus for dipping all rich in plant based protein, veg and two veg can provide better balance. And if you're not a vegetarian but you're still eating Quorn, stop! Switch to Turkey mince, its lower in fat and higher in protein and has zero artificial additives.
A little fat goes a long way Fat is an important part of our diet. We need it to metabolise some essential vitamins so don't dodge it altogether. Oily fish, olive and rapeseed oil, avodados, seeds and nuts all provide heart healthy unsaturated fats that help keep our cholesterol in check.
Eat slowly It takes between 15-30 minutes for your tummy to tell your brain it's full. Take your time, enjoy some conversation, get some proper old school FaceTime with those close to you. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is best for nourishing your body, but they've also revealed that the Mediterranean lifestyle is just as good for your mind so take your time over meals, connect with your family, get some friends over (when lockdown allows). De-stress while you refuel.
Stop when you're full Learn to recognise the signals which tell you you're full and stop eating. It's not your last meal, there's always more. If there's food left on your plate or centre table, don't feel guilty, save it. If you prepared a healthy meal guess what, you've got healthy leftovers for lunch, to snack on if you do get hungry later or to freeze for an emergency dinner when your day didn't go to plan and you're home late. Save your leftovers More than that, plan for there to be leftovers. "Cook once eat twice" I always say, this means less time prepping and cooking and only half the washing up.
Eat2Win 365 is a Therapist led holistic programme which gets health, fat loss and inch loss results and makes them permanent. Find out how Eat2Win 365 can help you achieve your body and health goals and get your first week free!
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