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Food Portion and Proportion

There are many aspects to eating in a sustainably healthy way (too many to cover in just one page), this month I want to talk about portion and proportion.

With so many sources delivering contradictory information of what ‘diet’ is best (eg: low carb, high carb, soup, low fat, no sugar, paleo, juice diets, detoxes) it’s hard to know which food groups should comprise of which proportions of our meals.

Also portion distortion has clouded our view when it comes to overall meal size and therefore overall energy intake.

Vegetables should make up at least half your plate, whole grains one quarter and meat one quarter. Meals are often dominated by meat and inadequate in vegetables. Do these pictures look familiar?

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating is developed from rigorous scientific investigation into; the body’s requirements but also eating patterns that prevent chronic disease. Like the Australian Guide to healthy eating The Mediterranean Diet has been rigorously investigated for its relationship to health. What can we learn from these styles of eating? How can we incorporate these points into our normal eating patterns through the meals we cook?

Let’s have a look at the characteristics of both the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and The Mediterranean Diet.

• Cereals and grains should be whole grain

• Vegetables should make up a large proportion of each meal and can eaten either cooked or raw

• Fruit is eaten every day

• Mono- and Poly- unsaturated fats should be used over saturated and trans fats

• Use of herbs and spices over adding salt

• Meat portions are modest and don’t take up the whole plate

• Lentils and legumes are commonplace

• Fish is eaten 2-3 times each week

Lots of the recipes we follow don’t have these attributes in mind and aren’t supporting good health. But with a few substitutions and some reworking of the proportions we can create more healthy versions of the meals we like to cook at home.

Let’s put this all together in a recipe…

Roast pumpkin risotto (4 portions)

Butter 20g
Onion 1 large
Arborio rice – 1.5 cups
Salt – to taste
Pepper – to taste
Butternut pumpkin – 1 cup
Parmesan cheese – 20g
Stock – 1.5 litres

Modified for health (6 portions)

Olive oil – 20ml
Onion – 1 large
Arborio rice – 0.5 cup
Pearl barley  – 0.5 cup
Pepper – to taste
Cumin 1.5 tsp
Coriander seeds 1.5 tsp,
Chilli 0.5-1 tsp
Nutmeg 0.5 tsp
Butternut pumpkin –  2.5 cups
Spinach – 1 bunch or 2 cups
Parmesan cheese – 10g

By making these small changes you are increasing the fibre, reducing the saturated fat, increasing the proportion of vegetables in the dish and increasing the vitamin and mineral content. It is also important to watch your portions by matching them to your requirements. Each individual has different overall requirements based upon their size, body composition and activity levels. Come in and make an appointment to see the Optimum Dietitians to help you understand how your personal requirements translate into portions and proportions that can improve health and put you on track to achieving your health goals.

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