5 portion mistakes you may be making

Emma Brown - Nutritionist | 10 Jun, 2022

Learning to manage portion sizes is one of the keys to maintaining a healthy weight, or indeed losing weight. I'm often told by new members that they were shocked to see how much they were eating once they started logging what they actually consumed in a day – often noticing that it was the portion of a particular food that contributed a lot of calories.

While it's best to weigh everything, certainly initially until you get a visual idea of what a suitable portion size looks like, there are some foods which are commonly over-served. Here are 5 everyday foods to be portion-savvy with.

Cereal

Cereal

It's so easy to pour it straight out of the box into a bowl and give yourself what looks like a reasonable amount. But sadly, what most of us think is a reasonable serving of cereal is usually much more than the recommended 'portion'.

We tested this in our office by asking people to pour themselves out a 40g serving of various cereals. A shocking 90% of people overestimated what a 40g serving should be! Don't get caught out – weigh out your cereal until you have a very good idea of what a 30-40g serving looks like in your bowl.

Pasta

Pasta

Much like cereal, pasta is something we tend to tip straight into the pan and guess at how much we need. The issue is, pasta absorbs water during cooking so we end up with a bigger volume once it's cooked. So while it may not look like a lot before cooking, it's more than plenty after.

This is why it's so easy to overestimate how much we need when we simply free-pour into the pan. Make sure to always weigh before cooking, aiming for around 75g dried pasta per person.

Rice

Rice

I think we've all been there – left with a mountain of rice we couldn't eat if we tried! Like pasta, many of us pour rice straight into the pan and massively overestimate how much is needed. As rice absorbs water like pasta, it expands in size, meaning the original quantity is at least doubled. It's then a case of overeating, throwing away the extra or a mixture of the two – neither of which are great outcomes.

Cheese

Cheese

Although a good source of protein and calcium, cheese is high in fat and salt, so we shouldn't overindulge regularly. The recommended portion size is 30g, which is about a matchbox-sized piece of cheddar. But it's incredibly easy to serve ourselves more than this, especially when we simply slice away at the block and fill our sandwich with the amount we think we need.

Avoid going too heavy on the cheese by chopping off a chunk and weighing it to be aware of the amount you're eating. My tip is to grate it onto your sandwich instead – it really does make cheese go so much further!

Olive oil

Olive oil

Even though olive oil is very good for us, as it contains healthy unsaturated fats, it is still full of fats. As fat is the most calorie dense nutrient at 9 calories per gram, it can add a lot of calories to our diet so should be managed.

Free-pouring 'a glug' of olive oil into your pan Jamie Oliver-style can lead to a significant number of extra calories in your dish. Ensure you use measuring spoons to control the amount when cooking with oil or drizzling on salads.

Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.