For a population facing serious challenges from weight-related health problems, the issue of portion sizing is particularly important. It is estimated that we overeat by 200-300 calories a day, and part of this is due to the fact that portion sizes are often overestimated.
For anyone who has ever read portion sizing information, it is obvious that the lack of clarity present in packaging is problematic. From im- perial measurements to multi-portion packets, it is hard, especially in such a fast-paced society, to ensure that we are not over-eating.
Recently, the BBC released an instructive video based on the new guidelines from the British Nutrition Foundation which aims to tackle the problems associated with portion sizing. The video shows how to use your hands to perfectly portion out a meal, with measure- ments such as two cupped hands for green vegetables, and half a thumb for a portion of peanut butter.
This instructional guide is an easy and accessible method for people to work out how much they should be eating, and is an important step in helping people to take control of their diet in a time when nutrition in the UK is so poor. Instead of necessitating the use of scales or measuring cups for foods, the use of the hand system makes it much easier to work out what exactly is an appropriate amount of each food group.
Nations such as the US, plagued too by their own health issues, already have far clearer packaging. Information on packets of sweets, for example, will specify exactly how many make up a portion, and some companies in the UK have started to adopt these guidelines.
However, more needs to be done and food producers need to take responsibility for problems which their portion recommendations are creating. The new nutrition guidance offered this week is useful for helping people to take control of their portion sizing; nevertheless, it is not solely the responsibility of people to ensure that they, and anyone else they are cooking for, are eating appropriately every meal. The availability of pre-packaged meals also reduces the ability of the population to control their portion sizes all the time. Instead, responsibility is passed over to the companies that produce them.
Portion control advice can only go so far in helping to tackle the current health crisis, and more can be done to ensure that people have options which allow for healthy choices. Socioeconomic factors also play a significant role in dietary options, and this is a factor that needs to be considered and tackled on a larger scale and over a longer period of time.
That said, raising awareness may be most important, and if guides such as the BBC’s are released more frequently, people will be guided towards healthier choices in an accessible way.