Fighting Obesity One Plate at a Time: How Much Should You Have on Your Plate?

Nov 27, 2015 07:50 PM EST | By A. M.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that in the United States obesity-related medical services cost the American government an estimated annual amount of $147 billion in 2008.  From 2011 to 2012, the obesity figures for children aged 2 to 5 years was 8.4%, for children aged 6 to 11 years around 17.7% and for 12 to 19-year olds around 20.5%. From 2011 to 2012, obesity affected about 34.9 percent (78.6 million) of American adults.

In the UK, the outlook is just as dire. The 2013 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation report says in Britain one in four adults are obese. The UK is knots ahead of other European countries as Sweden, France, Germany and Spain in the number of obese and overweight cases, with numbers swelling to three times more these past 30 years. 

Year after year, this disease will continue to steal the quality of life away from many individuals all over the world with obesity-related conditions as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer unless mitigated. The battle against obesity may appear daunting, but victory is possible one plate at a time.

Dietician Sian Porter, who is also the spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association (BDA), says that because of the prominent problem of overeating, a practical guideline on plate sizes is needed: "There needs to be official, accurate advice about portion sizes - but the next step is to make that practical for people. How many tablespoons is the portion, or how much should your favourite cereal bowl be filled?"That's what myself and my colleagues at the BDA do - we take the nutritional science and we make it practical."

While a look at the 50 percent increase in portions of ready-to-eat meals from the last 20 years in the UK is a concerning indication, this guide by Sian may help move things back on track. The key measuring tool to this guideline is the hand. According to Sian, "The obvious advantage of using your hands is that you always have them with you!"

Here are Sian's healthy serving recommendations:

Carbohydrates: the size of a clenched fist 
Meat: the size of an open palm, discounting the fingers
White fish:  the size the hand, including fingers
Oily fish: the size of the hand, may include the fingers if weight is not a concern
Spinach: twice the scoop of two hands
Berries: two cupped palms
Vegetables: the size of a fist or moreUncooked pasta: the size of a clenched fist
Uncooked rice: the size of a clenched fist
Cereal: the size of a cupped hand
Butter: the size of the thumb tip, measure from knuckle to nail
Chocolate: the size of the index finger
Cheese: the length and depth of both thumbs
Cake: the length and width of two fingers
Nuts: one cupped palm

"It's about making choices," Sian explains.  "You get a lot of bang for your buck with something like vegetables: people know that if they eat a whole bar of chocolate that's not good, but a whole bag of spinach is fine.

She adds that the practice mindfulness with serving sizes allows for better variety and a more thorough enjoyment, without any accompanying guilt.

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