Measuring portion sizes

Healthy portion sizes

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Healthy portion sizes are important. If you’re a healthy eater you can still have too much of a good thing, large helpings, or even just a little over-indulgence every day can really add up and an excess of food usually means an excess of calories, which will lead to weight gain. Often those difficult last few pounds you need to lose could be due to your portion sizes. And being overweight can also make a significant difference to your risk of heart disease. Being overweight puts you more at risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. So the right amount of food goes hand in hand with having a healthy, balanced diet.

We all need a certain amount of calories to provide our bodies with energy, for growth and repair. The number of calories you need varies depending on your weight, gender and how active you are, as well as on your state of health. It’s important to remember that your energy requirements will change; many people find they gain weight when they retire, for example, and this can be because of a change in activity levels compared with when they were working. Your weight is one of the best guides to whether you’re eating the right number of calories or not. Making changes to balance your diet, for instance eating more fruit instead of chocolates, crisps and biscuits, will reduce the amount of calories you consume but you also need to consider the total amount you’re eating. Your personal trainer will be able to give you nutritional advice and work with you to plan a healthy eating regime.

It’s important to get a balance of food groups to make sure we get all the nutrients we need. When adjusting your portion size, remember that the overall balance of food groups should stay the same. You should have plenty of fruit and vegetables and starchy carbohydrates, along with some lean meat, fish, eggs or vegetarian alternatives and low-fat dairy products and avoid eating too many foods that are high in fat and sugar. The main group that we seem to struggle to get enough of is fruit and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables that are fresh, frozen, tinned and dried all count, as do juice and smoothies, and beans and pulses like kidney beans and baked beans. But remember that beans and juice will only count once a day however many portions of them you eat.

Don’t forget side dishes count too. Forget the bread or chips as a side dish if you already have some starchy carbohydrate with your meal, such as rice, potatoes or pasta as you’d be doubling up. If you know you’ll want some bread on the side, cut down the starchy food on your plate.

A standard-sized portion can look small on a large plate, so try using a smaller plate, or a bowl, it will stop you overloading. Measuring cups could help when it comes to getting your portion right for things like pasta and rice and stop you overestimating the amount.

Try having apple or some fat-free yogurt with berries to give you the sweet fix minus the added fats and sugars if you feel the need to finish the meal on a sweet note.

If you still feel hungry at the end of the meal, wait for about 20 minutes before reaching for a second helping, as it takes a little while for you to feel full after eating so give your brain time to catch up and you might not need that extra portion.

Beware of the ready made, prepackaged meals, check how many servings each pack contains, also most will detail the nutritional values and the meal may not be as healthy as you first thought. Remember preparing your own meals from scratch doesn’t have to take hours. By making your own food means you know exactly what’s gone in the pot and also gives you control over how much you serve, and if you are really time stretched, make double and save a portion for another day.

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