Size matters: a guide to portion control for the whole family

bread growing in size

bread growing in sizeAre your eyes bigger than your kids’ bellies when it comes to mealtimes?  As mums it’s our instinct to “feed them up,” but pile their plates too high and you could be throwing money down the drain.


According to Love Food Hate Waste, the average family throws away £50 in uneaten food each month.  And with a third of children overweight or obese by the time they reach year six* it’s more important than ever to keep portions under control.  Here’s how:

Plan ahead

Can’t resist a BOGOF?   Buying in bulk can be a false economy if you end up loading your plates just to use it all up, so don’t waste cash on ‘bargains’ that you don’t really need.  Plan your meals before you shop, then write a list and stick to it.

Know your portions

Portion sizes in the UK have crept gradually upwards over recent years, making it harder to know what a healthy serving really looks like.

Nutritionist Charlotte Stirling Reed says “often my clients are quite shocked by the actual recommended portion sizes for certain foods, but this is simply because our typical portions have been getting bigger with few people noticing them change.”

Read your food labels and weigh out individual portions to get a feel for how much you should be eating.

Don’t give everyone the same amount

When it comes to children, the amount of food they need can vary depending on their age and size; but as a rough guide, one portion should fit into the palm of their hand.  Charlotte says:   “Children and adults should have very different portion sizes, although this is often not the case with some children having the same quantities as their parents – which are often too big in the first place.”

Use smaller plates…

A quick look at your Gran’s best china will show you that supersizing hasn’t just afflicted our burgers – our plates and bowls have also got bigger over time.  But use a smaller plate and you’ll think you’re getting more food than you really are – it’s a cheap trick, but it works!

… or even smaller

Kids’ portions can look lost on an adult-sized platter.  Giving them children’s plates makes it easier to see if they’re getting the right amount.  Plus, the less you give them, the more likely they are to finish it up and ask for more.

Eat more slowly

Is dinner time a race to see who can stuff their face first?  It can take up to 20 minutes for our brain to realise we’re full, so slow down and give it a chance to catch up with your stomach.   Resist the urge to keep going and learn to recognise when you’ve had enough.

Be honest with yourself

It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking we eat less than we really do.

Charlotte says, “Remembering the foods we gobble down in the day is not as easy as it sounds and is especially hard if we tend to ‘graze’ on foods throughout the day.”   Write down everything you eat in a day – even that grande latte or cookie that “didn’t really count”.  You’ll soon see where you can save cash as well as calories.

* National Child Measurement Programme 2009/10