Nutrition Tips with Sarah Keogh - When Portion Control is a Balancing Act

Thursday, 8 March 2018

When it comes to managing weight – or any aspect of nutrition – balance is key. But what does that mean? We all know the joke that a balanced diet is a glass of wine in one hand and a slice of cake in the other… In practical terms, balancing nutrition means getting the right amounts of different foods to give our bodies the nutrients we need.
You can over complicate this by talking at length about macros and micros; carbs versus fat and all the rest. However two very simple tips can bring you a long way.

1. Choose a smaller plate. Did you know that plate sizes in Ireland today are up to 40% bigger than they were in the 1960’s? This means many of us are eating almost double the dinner our parents ate. Even if this is really healthy food, it is still going to be too much for most of us.

What do we do? Use your own hand as a guide. Take a sheet of paper, spread out your hand as wide as you can and draw a circle around it. This is roughly the size of the plate you need for lunch and dinner. Unless you are training very seriously, few people need more than this.

2. Balance the foods you put on your plate. One quarter of your plate needs to be your protein. This is meat, beans, lentils, chicken turkey, fish, eggs and nuts. Again, unless you are seriously body building, you don’t need more than this. Remember: the human body does not store protein. If you over eat on protein, your body just turns the excess into fat.

One quarter of your plate is for carbs – preferably wholegrain or high fibre carbs like brown rice, jacket potatoes or wholegrain bread. Too many of us cover the whole plate with pasta or rice and then put the rest of the dinner on top. People often say carbs are fattening: well they will be if you eat four servings at every meal…

Finally, half of your plate should be salad, vegetables or fruit. This can be a bowl of soup or a side salad with your lunch or steamed or stir fried veg with your dinner. Don’t be afraid to try some vegetarian meals now and again, even if you’re a dedicated meat eater: It’s a great way to boost fibre and get your 5-7 a day.

Sarah Keogh
Consultant Dietician at