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Lots of consumers are counting calories as part of managing their weight and we are helping by highlighting calories on the front of packs, introducing calorie counts on menu boards and working to develop ranges of foods and snacks that are calorie controlled. We are also looking at alternatives to traditional meals and snacks – like scrambled egg pots instead of a breakfast roll or baked potatoes instead of a chicken fillet sandwich. We can’t force people to make changes but if can offer them a tasty alternative, we might help them to move in the right direction.
When it comes to healthy eating portion sizes are crucial. Even the healthiest meal can put on weight if you eat too much. Likewise, trying to get by on too few calories is not a great idea. Sooner or later your body will just take over and you can end up eating far more than you planned.
As a rough guide, women need about 2000 calories per day and men need about 2500. This does assume that you are doing some exercise so if you are fairly inactive you probably need less than this. Everyone needs a slightly different amount of calories and you may need less if you are trying to lose weight. A good way to get to know how much food your body needs is to listen to whether or not you are hungry, especially in between meals. Regular meals are important, but in between meals, snack if you feel hungry, but not if you don’t. It is easy to pick up calories you don’t need by snacking out of habit in between meals. If you are trying to lose weight, it can be useful to sit down with a qualified dietitian to find out the right amount of calories for you and how to make sure you balance good nutrition with any weight loss. Go to www.indi.ie or www.sedi.ie
Skipping meals or trying to get by on a tiny lunch will just leave you hungry and it can be hard to control what you eat later on if you are ravenous! On the other hand don’t assume that you need a large amount of food. The best guide is your stomach. You should aim to be only 80% full at the end of a meal – not stuffed. This gives your stomach the space it needs to start breaking down your food and it helps you to eat the right amount of food for you.
If you think about 2000 calories per day, then we need roughly:
- 400 calories for breakfast
- 600 calories for lunch
- 600 calories for dinner
- 400 calorie for snacks or drinks during the day
People who are more active may need more calories at meal times but this is a god guide to get you thinking about what you need.
1. The best place to start is by putting all of your dinner plates in the attic and using a salad or breakfast plate instead. This plate is about 9” across. Unless you are very active you do not need a dinner plate – this goes for men as well as women.
2. Watch your portions of carbs. There is no need to cut out carbs, but you do need to be sensible about amounts. Rice and pasta should only be ¼ to 1/3 of your plate at lunch or dinner (not covering the whole plate, with everything else on top!). Bread should be no more than 2 slices at any meal. 2-3 egg sized potatoes are all most people need. Make up the balance with lots of vegetables or salad.
3. Be careful at breakfast. Bowls come in many different sizes – how big is yours? Do you really need a huge bowl of cereal or are you comfortable with a little less? Try measuring your cereal – ½ cup of dry porridge, ½ cup muesli and 1 ½ cups of flaked-type cereals.
4. When you eat meals, don’t fall into the trap of “stocking up for later”. If you are starting to feel full, then stop. You will naturally get hungry every 3-4 hours so eating more than you need now just adds calories and will not stop you from getting peckish later on.
5. Never use a bowl for your dinner. Bowls may look smaller than plates but they can usually hold quite a bit more. Stick to the 9” plate even for pasta dishes.
6. Don’t worry if you get a little hungry in between meals if you have reduced your portions. If you are genuinely hungry then a healthy, high fibre snack is perfectly ok. But: don’t just snack from habit!
7. When it comes to nuts and seeds, these are incredibly nutritious but also high in calories. No more than a handful of nuts or seeds at a time – don’t stick a bag on your desk and spend the whole day nibbling!
8. Don’t overdo protein. Protein is very important for good health but the body can only use a certain amount at a time – any extra protein just adds calories. Do include protein foods like meat, chicken, fish, eggs or beans at meals but keep portions sensible.
9. Look at the palm of your hand. A piece of meat, chicken or fish that is about the size of the palm of your hand is more than enough at dinner and you need about half that at lunch time. Someone who is very active such as athletes or body builders may need more protein but for most people, this will give you all the protein you need.