x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

How to dish up the right kinds of servings

A healthy new you Often thought of as one and the same, a portion and a serving size are actually quite different.

Discussions on healthy eating and weight loss often focus on the types of food that should be eaten, such as low fat, low sodium and whole grain. And while choosing healthier foods is the cornerstone of any healthy eating plan, the benefits can be lost if you're not eating appropriate portions. Often thought of as one and the same, a portion and a serving size are actually quite different. A serving size is a recommended amount of food you eat as part of a healthy diet determined by health organisations. A portion, on the other hand, is the actual amount of food that is served, packaged or eaten. Often there is a significant discrepancy between the two.

Portion sizes have consistently increased over the past two decades, and it's no surprise that obesity rates have followed suit. Studies have shown that the more food that is put in front of someone, the more they will eat. Consuming overzealous portions is one of the easiest ways to unknowingly consume extra calories, which can quickly add up. It only takes an extra 500 calories a day for seven days to gain a pound.

Knowing what a proper portion looks like is the first step to healthy eating. Portions should be modelled after serving sizes outlined by healthy eating recommendations, most of which are broken down by food group. Knowing what a healthy portion should be is one thing, but actually consuming that amount is another. Last week I recommended picking up a set of measuring spoons and measuring cups to help with portion size. As simple as it may seem to eyeball appropriate portions, it's easy to overestimate. I recommend measuring food for at least a week until you have an idea of what a healthy amount looks like. Knowing how many servings of rice come with your favourite takeaway or how much a serving of cereal looks like in your cereal bowl will go a long way in helping you keep tabs on your portions.

While measuring utensils are by far the best tool you can invest in for a healthy eating meal plan, there are some other strategies you can use to estimate portion sizes: 1 cup (250 ml) = small fist 3/4 cup (175 ml) = tennis ball 1/2 cup (125 ml) = small computer mouse 1/4 cup (60 ml) = medium egg 1 tablespoon (15 ml) = thumb tip 1 teaspoon (5 ml) = dice 2.5 ounces (75 grams) = deck of cards. Email questions to diet@thenational.ae

Here's a sample of healthy serving sizes based on Canada's Food Guide. Fruits and vegetables: A serving is equivalent to a medium piece of fruit (100g), 1/2 cup (125ml) mango, 1 kiwi (75g), 2 medium figs (80g), 1 cup (250ml) spinach or 1/2 cup (125 ml) sweet potato. Adults should aim to get three servings of fruit per day, and four to five servings of vegetables. Grain products: A serving is equivalent to 1/2 cup (125ml) cooked couscous, half 6-inch pita (35g), 1/2 cup (125ml) cooked rice, 1/4 nan, 1 slice of bread (35g) or 3/4 cup (175ml) whole grain cereal (30g). Adults should aim to get six to eight servings per day, choosing whole grain products more often. Milk and alternatives: A serving is equivalent to 1 cup (250ml) milk, 3/4 cup (175ml) yogurt, or 1.5 oz (50grams) of paneer. Adults should aim to get two to three servings per day, choosing lower fat options more often (2 per cent milk fat or less). Meat and alternatives: A serving is equivalent to 3/4 cup (175ml) hummus, 3/4 cup (175ml) cooked beans or lentils, or 2.5 ounces (75grams) meat. Adults should aim to get two to three servings per day. Choose lean meat, beans and legumes more often. Fats and oils: Since fats and oils are very high in calories, you want to keep them to a minimum. Aim for no more than 3 tablespoons of added unsaturated fat per day. That includes oil used in food prep, salad dressing and condiments such as margarine or mayonnaise. Choose healthier oils and fats more often. That means olive oil and canola instead of palm and coconut oil.