Portion sizes

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What is the right portion?

Preparing and serving a nutritious meal for you and your family is a great start towards a healthy weight and a healthy future! This involves getting the portions sizes right for main meals, snacks and extras, to make sure you are fuelling up and feeling fabulous.

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1. Perfect portions – Main Meals

Getting your portions right at breakfast, lunch and dinner can make a real difference to your weight and your health. Main meals are all about maximising nutrition with the right foods while keeping kilojoules check. Get the balance right when plating up meals at home with this simple rule of thumb:

  • ½ of your plate should be vegetables (think variety and colour!)
  • ¼ of your plate should be good-quality carbohydrates – such as potato, wholegrain pasta, brown rice, couscous, quinoa
  • ¼ of your plate should be lean protein, like lean meat, poultry, eggs or legumes.

It is okay to include healthy fats in meals e.g. nuts, avocado, oil in cooking and salad dressings.

For more information on specific serve sizes for your life stage, see the Australian Dietary Guidelines for Recommended Serves Adults and Recommended Serves for Adolescents and Children.

2. Portable portions – Daily Snacks (morning tea, afternoon tea, supper)

If you are hungry between main meals choosing a snack is a good idea, but choosing the right snack, in the right portion, that is nutritious and keeping you fuller for longer is important. Choose snacks that are nutrient-rich; high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals, and low in added sugar, salt and saturated fat. Great choices are fruit, low fat yoghurt, wholegrain crackers or nuts.

One serve is:

  • Fruit – medium banana, apple orange, 2 small fruits (kiwi fruits, small apricots), 30g of dried fruit (4 dried apricots, 1 ½ tablespoons of dried fruit), ½ glass of juice
  • Yoghurt – 200g, or try 1 cup (250mls) of milk (choose mostly reduced fat)
  • 2 large, or 4 small wholegrain crackers – enjoy with tomato, hummus, tuna, salsa or a small amount of cheese or avocado.
  • A ‘handful’ of nuts (30g) – i.e. 20 almonds or peanuts, 15 cashews or 9 walnuts.

3. Portion distortion – Sweet and Salty Treats

Sweet biscuits, cakes, ice-cream, hot chips, chocolate . . . It’s easy to overdo these foods, and many people do just that! According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, these foods are considered ‘discretionary” (ie we don’t need them!) and one ‘serve’ of these ‘discretionary’ foods is the amount that contains 600kJ. If you are trying to lose weight, you’re unlikely to be able to fit many of these foods into your lower kilojoule target.

One serve (600kJ) is:

  • Two scoops regular ice-cream
  • 2-3 sweet biscuits
  • 25g chocolate
  • 12 fried hot chips
  • 5-6 small lollies
  • 1 small slice (40g) plain cake
  • 30g salty crackers

They really have to be a very occasional treat. But for people in their normal weight range, eating these foods occasionally, and in the right portions, can add variety and enjoyment to your life.  For more information about serve sizes of discretionary foods and how many serves are right for you, click here.

4. Perfectly poured – Alcoholic drinks

Do you enjoy a big night out? Or even just a few glasses of wine each night? Then it’s time to think seriously about your drinking habits and how they might affect your long-term health.  In moderation, alcohol can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle. However, it contains almost as much energy as fat – with 27kJ per gram of alcohol (compared to 37kJ per gram of fat). A standard alcoholic drink contains 10g alcohol. Just the alcohol portion of a standard drink contains at least 270kJ, and, if you drink the alcohol with a mixer or drink beer or wine, the kilojoule content per drink can be as much as a small chocolate bar.

So what does “moderation” mean when it comes to alcohol? The Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol recommends no more than two standard drinks on any day for long-term health, and to consume no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion.

A standard drink provides 10 grams of alcohol and is equal to:

  • 100ml wine
  • 285ml full strength beer
  • 60ml port or sherry
  • 30ml spirits.

For more information about the effects of alcohol on your body, visit www.drinkwise.org.au.