Disclaimer: The information in here is general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.
Food portions are just as important as what food we eat. One thing I have come to realise over the years of watching what I eat (and sometimes not) along with what I have learnt from my studies, is that it’s not just about what I eat. It’s also about how much I eat. It doesn’t really matter if I eat ONLY the “healthiest” most nutritional food, if I eat too much of it, I will not only put on weight, I will feel sluggish. I have also noticed that I also feel “foggy” in the head. You know, when you can’t really focus and motivation is low. Both of these combine to make it really hard to prioritise and get stuff done. Like life at home running a business, a house and 3 kids is not hard enough, if motivation, focus and energy drop it makes it feel even harder.
So here are some tips that I try to stick to, which I find help guide me and keep me on an even keel. I’m not perfect, but (mostly) sticking with these guides certainly helps to keep me on track on average.
1. Main Meal Portions
- Portions of Protein should be 1/4 of plate – I am hungry less often if I include a good lean source of protein in each meal. Protein is a good hunger suppressor. It takes the body a while to break it down and absorb it, so you feel fuller for longer. I try to keep it to no more than 1.4 of the plate. Try eggs, lean meat, chicken, legumes (kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas etc). Legumes are also good sources of fibre, good for digestion and feeling full. Until recently this was more often than not, missing from my breakfast. Adding to my breakfast has made a big difference to how my mornings run. Morning are my productive time and having protein at breakfast helps support that so much better!
- portions of Vegetables should be 1/2 of plate – personally I like salad, so I eat a lot of salad, (possibly more than half the plate sometimes, with seconds). Salads in my house often contain cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, baby spinach, onion, avocado, sometimes snow peas and sometimes corn. In addition to this I will occasionally steam some broccoli on the side. If we want hot vegetables with our meal, I tend to steam vegetables – broccoli, snow peas and carrots. Mash potato is my weakness and sweet mashed potato really doesn’t cut it – I’ve tried. I do mash white potato occasionally, but I watch how much I have I’m sure to fill up predominantly on the protein and other vegetables. Leafy green vegies with fibre are good for making you feel full.
- Portions of Good carbs should be 1/4 of the plate – when it comes to pasta and rice I try to keep the pile low on the plate, a high pile can still take up a 1/4 of the plate and be too much. I try to use basmati rice as it’s lower GI than normal white rice, meaning the energy enters your blood slower than with other white rice. I haven’t managed to cook brown rice well enough to have my family (read husband) happily eat it, so for now it’s basmati — it’s a goal of mine though. Whole grain breads (I also find a rye bread is less taxing on my system and doesn’t leave as sluggish as multigrain) and quinoa and couscous are also lower GI options.
I have morning tea and afternoon tea. These can be fruits, a handful of nuts, some natural yoghurt with a little honey or fruits/berries. These help get me through to the next meal. Having a snack between meals means, I don’t need to stuff myself at the main meals, to ensure I can get through to the next meal. Overloading on one meal, especially if it’s lunch, really slows me done. It makes me sleepy and unproductive in the afternoon. Planning to have snacks means I can have a smaller lunch and keep myself going and
Try drinking a glass of water before a meal. I often find while I prep food and the afternoon rush, that I don’t drink enough. This can make me feel more hungry, so I end up eating more. Really I am thirsty. The water also fills me up and helps me avoid going for a second serve.
4. Feeling Hungry
Dr’s say (and experience has backed this up) that if you eat large meals for long enough, your stomach will become more elastic and be able to expand more, allowing you to consume more, before you feel full. Conversely though, if you eat smaller meals for long enough (about 6 – 8 weeks apparently) your stomach will become less elastic and won’t be able to expand as much, feeling fuller sooner. I’m not a fan of diets, I prefer eating balanced healthy meals for life. BUT, I have done diets and if you have as well, you will have probably noticed this happen with your stomach. Once you finish the diet and start eating “normally” i.e. pre-diet eating, you haven’t been able to eat as much.
5. A Word on Fibre
Remember to also drink plenty of water (I have my reminder app on my phone now). Foods with additional fibre like some of the above, mean you will need to drink more water. Fibre needs water to be effective. Without water constipation can ensue.