Portion sizes

Most people will know the phrase ‘5 a day’ in relation to the number of portions of fruit and vegetables we should be eating a day, but what counts as a portion? And what about pasta, bread, meat, fish, and milk?

It’s important to eat the right types of food and drinks, in the right amounts. Too much food can lead to overweight and obesity, and diet related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. On the other hand, not eating enough of certain foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies that can affect your health.

How much should I be eating?

The daily recommendation for women is 2000 calories per day and for men, 2500 calories per day. However, the number of calories you need will depend on your age, activity levels, body composition, and how fast you use energy (known as metabolic rate).

Recent research has focused on the importance of the quality of the calories you eat, not just the number. For instance, both a banana and four squares of milk chocolate contain approximately 100 calories, however a banana contains more fibre, and essential vitamins and minerals such as potassium which is essential for heart health. Therefore, it’s important to think about where you get your calories from.

Try and focus on including wholefoods in your diet and choosing ready-made and packaged items which are lower in fat, salt and sugar. To help identify healthier options, look at the traffic light labels on the front of packets (example below) and opt for foods which are low (green) or medium (orange) in these nutrients. You can also check the list of ingredients on the back of the packet – watch out for ones you don’t recognise.

How do know how much to eat from each food group?

According to the British Nutrition Foundation, healthy adults should be eating the following number of portions of each food group outlined in The Eatwell Guide.

Fruits and Vegetables

We should be eating at least five portions of different fruit and vegetables a day. A portion of fruit and vegetables is defined as 80g, or 30g for dried fruits. So, what does this look like in practice?