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Have you got TOO MUCH on your PLATE?

One of the main reasons for the nation’s expanding waistlines is simple: we’re eating too much. Snack packs, coffee-shop treats and ready meals can be up to 200% of their 1970s sizes. But that’s not all: bigger portions at home have also become the norm. Here’s how to take back control of your plate – and your weight

PORTION CONTROL UPDATE

IF YOUR BELLY IS GETTING BIGGER despite sticking to the same diet, there could be a hidden saboteur at work. Yes, we’re talking that old enemy, portion creep. This phenomenon, whereby the amounts we habitually eat become larger and soon appear to be standard, can dramatically increase our calorie intake, which translates first into increased belly fat. Yet it somehow falls under our weight-watching radar. No wonder we’re baffled as to why our waistbands are getting tighter.

‘These days, increasing numbers of us are eating out and buying our lunches from cafés and supermarkets,’ says HFG nutrition editor Amanda Ursell.

‘We’re constantly being provided with larger meal sizes and heftier portions in processed foods such as biscuits and crisps. The upshot is we’ve all gradually been getting used to eating larger amounts.

‘I’m sure we can all remember eating fairy cakes in this country, yet now we have these huge American-style coffee-shop muffins with around four times the calories, sugar and fat, not to mention monster choc-chip cookies.

‘I remember people used to come back from holidays to the US saying they just couldn’t believe the size of the helpings over there – but now those we’re being served here at home aren’t so different.’

WHEN AND HOW IT HAPPENED

Portion Distortion, a 2013 report by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), revealed widespread confusion among consumers about portion sizes. It highlighted a tendency to eat larger amounts and to overestimate the quantity we should be eating.

It also revealed dramatic increases in manufacturers’ pack sizes between 1993 and 2013.

For instance, a sharing pack of ready salted crisps increased in size by 50%, from 100g in 1993 to 150g in 2013. Individual chicken pieces were 40% bigger than in 1993 and a frozen chicken curry with rice ready meal was 53% bigger and contained 420kcal more than the 1993 version. Even the humble crumpet has been super-sized, being 20% bigger in 2013 than 20 years previously.

This insidious portion inflation can have a big impact on our waistlines. The BHF calculated that eating a daily 84g (2013 size) bagel rather a 70g version (1993 size) could add around 19,500kcal a year to our calorie intake and lead to a 5.5lb weight gain.

A review by the Food Standards Agency found white bread slices had also increased in size, and that there’s now a larger selection of premium/luxury biscuits, which are bigger and higher in calories than ever before.

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About Healthy Food Guide

Find out what really works for weight loss with our portion guide special - and say goodbye to that belly fat. Meet the medical experts now focusing on nutrition, and try our 32 heart-friendly recipes. We show you how to spot or prevent a mini stroke (it could save a life), and take your running to a new level with our complete guide to training for a race. We've also got vegan comfort food covered, plus pancakes and Valentine's treats, and help you look as good on the outside as you feel on the inside, with professional tips for beauty on a budget.