The best tip for managing your weight

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New Year’s Resolution #1: eat healthier and lose weight maintain healthy weight. So this means no more chocolate, no more sugary drinks, no added sugar in my coffee, and more vegetables, low fat dairy products and lean meats. But it’s just so hard, writes Debby Liu.

Whilst these pieces of advice are good and important in themselves, it can be hard to remember all the rules to healthy eating, especially if it’s not second nature to us.  Definitely keep these things in mind, but perhaps first take a look at portion sizes – because it only makes sense that the bigger the serving size, the more we end up eating, and coupled with less activity, the more likely we will put on weight.

The larger the trap

Who can resist a good deal? Food is no exception.  Many of us fall into the trap of saying yes to upsizing, to the large coffee, larger chip pack, larger pack of potatoes, etc. All because it is better value and yes, perhaps we will end up using/eating it later. But what actually happens is we end up feeling obligated to finish it all, otherwise it would be a waste, right?

That’s right, it goes straight to our waist! We end up overeating and not moving enough to work off all the extra kilojoules which leads to weight gain.  So the simple solution to this is to gradually decrease your portion sizes to those recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Portion size recommendations

Here are some popular foods and their portion size recommendations for men and women aged 19-60 years. The number of serves varies depending on age, gender and medical conditions.  If unsure, always speak to your doctor, pharmacist or dietician for support and advice.

Food group Serves Standard serve size
Vegetables, legumes and beans 5-6
  • ½ cup: cooked veggies, cooked, dried or canned beans, peas or lentils, sweet corn
  • 1 cup green leafy or raw salad veggies
  • ½ medium potato or other starchy veggie
  • 1 medium tomato
Fruit 2
  • 1 medium piece of apple, orange or peach
  • 2 small pieces of nectarine, plum or kiwi fruit
  • 1 cup diced or canned fruit (no added sugar)
Grains and cereals 3-6
  • 1 slice bread or ½ bread roll
  • ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles, barley, buckwheat, polenta or quinoa
  • 2/3 cup cereal flakes
  • ½ cup muesli
Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (low fat) 2 ½ – 4
  • 1 cup milk or calcium fortified soy milk
  • 2 slices hard cheese
  • ¾ cup yoghurt
Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds 2-3
  • 65-100g cooked lean meat, chicken or fish
  • 2 large eggs
  • 30g nuts, seeds, peanut paste or tahini
  • 170g tofu

Use your hands

Here is an easy way to know your portion sizes that you can carry around with you wherever you go. It’s nice and handy!

Handy portion sizes Approximate portion size
Closed fist
  • 1 cup of raw salad veggies
  • 1 piece of medium fresh fruit
  • 1 cup diced or canned fruit
  • 1 cup cooked or canned legumes/beans
Cupped hand
  • 1 small piece of fruit
  • ½ cup cooked veggies or legumes/beans
  • ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles, barley, buckwheat, polenta or quinoa
  • ½ medium potato
Open palm
  • 100g raw meat or poultry
  • 100g cooked fish
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 tbs salad dressing
  • 1 tbs oil
  • 20g hard cheese
Tip of the thumb
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1tspm margarine or butter
  • 1 tsp mayonnaise

Source: Adapted from Queensland Health.

Five more tips for managing food portions

  • Use smaller dinner plates and serve food away from the dinner table to discourage getting seconds.
  • After your meal, wait 10 minutes to see if you are still hungry. If so, have more salad or vegetables.
  • Restaurants tend to serve larger portion sizes.  If this is the case, there is no shame in not finishing everything or even asking for the remainder to be packed away.
  • Avoid eating straight from the packet.  Serve the desired quantity in a small bowl and put the rest away.
  • Avoid skipping meals as getting over-hungry can lead to over-eating.

So, to recap…

Starting the year by managing portion sizes is a great way to eating healthier, whilst still being able to enjoy the foods we love – albeit in smaller sizes. If ever unsure, always speak to your doctor, pharmacist or dietician for advice and support.

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