Portion Size Matters

Portion Size Matters

We all eat way more than we used to. Food marketing driven by competition between companies for the same existing market and in an effort to created demand for new foods has done this through pandering to our predisposition to fats and salt and attractive value for money deals.

These changes have also had implications for our expectations on portion size. If the daily energy requirement (measured as calories) for the average adult male is 2200 calories and for females is 1800 calories then the size and energy density of meals (dictated by portion size) does matter.

A Mars bar 20 years ago was the smallest on the market, now it’s one the largest leaping from 30g (135 calories) to 80g (370 calories) creating a meal size portion of calories in one snack.

The change is more dramatic for so called sugar sweetened beverages; soft drinks have also increased in their average size from 390ml at 160 calories to the current version at 600ml and 245 calories.

Chip packets have also been supersized from 30g at 150 calories to a single serve being marketed at 50 or 100g giving up to 500 calories per pack. Put this together and a mid morning snack of a drink, packet of chips and a Mars bar gives 1,115 calories or more than half the daily requirement for the average male.

The general rule of thumb is that an average meal should consist of between 300 and 550 calories and between meal snack 100-200 so this huge increase in portion size of snacks to exceed the usual calorie count of meals has real implications for our consumption of salt, sugar and fat. The super- sizing suits manufacturers as the average consumer eats more of their products and this all suits the consumer looking for cheap calories as for instance a typical meal upgrade for a take away meal can give you 50% more food for about 16% more money.

With Christmas a few weeks away now is the time of year when it is difficult not to overindulge. Cutting back on snacks between meals can make a huge difference to the total energy consumption and reduce the size of the task facing those making New Years resolutions to shift unwanted weight.

Try to fill your Christmas plate with mostly salads and low starch vegetables, low Glycemic Index (GI) carbohydrates such as sweet potato, peas and corn and enjoy some protein foods in Christmas day turkey, lean red meat or fish. Keep exercising every day, enjoy this time with your family and stay healthy.

If reading food labels or counting kilojoules 1 calorie = approx 4.2kJ, so roughly multiplying or diving by 4 will convert Calories to kilojoules or visa versa

Megan Allender

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