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- Handy guide to portion sizes: Never know how much food is too much? Use our formula to figure out the right amount to eat Tuesday November 24th, 2015
There are currently almost no official UK guidelines on portion sizes
We are no good at working out how much food should be on our plate
Sian Porter, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, advises
You follow the rules: you eat your greens, you skip the junk. So why is that waistband a little snugger than you’d like? It may not be what’s on your plate, but how much. For when it comes to portion size, it seems we’ve lost all sense of, well, proportion.
‘Most people don’t know what an appropriate portion should look like,’ says Sian Porter, a consultant dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. ‘But even healthy food contains calories. You can make really healthy choices and still eat too much.’ Apart from the fact that you should have five 80g servings of fruit and veg a day, there are currently no official UK guidelines on portion sizes – or rules for food manufacturers to tell you what counts as a serving.
Indeed, a 2013 report from the British Heart Foundation which looked at how portion sizes had changed over 20 years found that ready-meal portions for dishes such as lasagne had increased by as much as 50 per cent, while the size of a typical digestive biscuit has gone up by 17 per cent – so eating just one biscuit a day now, compared with in 1993, would add 3,330 calories to your diet each year.
Apart from the fact that you should have five 80g servings of fruit and veg a day, there are currently no official UK guidelines on portion sizes – or rules for food manufacturers to tell you what counts as a serving
‘Plates and wine glasses keep getting bigger, too,’ adds Sian Porter.
Research has shown repeatedly that we are no good at working out how much food should be on our plate – study participants frequently over-estimate serving size, under-estimate calorie content, and fail to compensate for large helpings at subsequent meals.
It’s not entirely our fault. The guidance we’re given is pretty hopeless, suggests a 2012 paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, which reviewed scientific studies into portion size and all the official advice.
For instance, we’re told to eat two portions of oily fish a week, but not how much that actually is. Even the NHS’s ‘Eat Well plate’ – a visual tool showing a plate divided up according to food groups – doesn’t specify exact amounts, only rough proportions. It says we should eat ‘plenty’ of vegetables, ‘plenty’ of starchy carbs such as pasta and rice, ‘some’ protein such as chicken and fish, ‘some’ milk and dairy and ‘just a small amount’ of fat and sugar. And while fruit or vegetable portion sizes are specified – 80g is one of your five a day, says the NHS – even if you could work out what 80g of broccoli would look like, what about 80g of spinach or 80g of blueberries?
What’s more, nutritional content and serving size on packaging is listed in grams, yet few of us bother weighing out food.
So how can you work out how much to eat, without calorie-crunching or taking scales to the supermarket?
Good Health has the answer at hand – literally. We asked Sian Porter to work out what an appropriate portion of basic foods should be and how this looked relative to the size of your hand. For example, a serving of carbohydrates should be the size of your fist.
‘The obvious advantage of using your hands is that you always have them with you,’ says Sian Porter.
‘Plus it’s proportional. If you’re a bigger person, you’ll need a bigger portion, but your hands will be bigger so the portion is adapted automatically. Likewise, children need child-size portions, the size of their hands.’
MEAT: PALM OF THE HAND
The steak pictured is about 100g and the thickness of a deck of cards
A serving of any meat should be the size of the palm of your hand (but not your fingers). The steak pictured is about 100g and the thickness of a deck of cards. ‘Aim to have a portion of protein this size at every meal – you should spread protein throughout the day as we process it better in smaller, regular amounts,’ says Sian Porter. ‘But don’t have more than 500g of red meat in a week. ‘Choose other protein such as fish, beans, or pulses.’
WHITE FISH: WHOLE HAND
For white fish, the portion can be the size of your hand when laid flat, including your fingers
White fish such as cod, haddock or pollock is very low in fat and calories so the portion can be the size of your hand when laid flat, including your fingers (about 150g and 100 calories). ‘White fish is great, because its protein is naturally low in fat,’ says Sian Porter. ‘It has only a small amount of omega-3s, but is a good source of selenium, important for the immune system and healthy hair and nails.’
UNCOOKED SPINACH: TWO DOUBLE HANDFULS
You should have vegetables with every meal and, as the picture shows, not just a couple of slices of lettuce
This is how much raw spinach you need for one of your five a day (80g) – practically a whole bag – and the same serving size applies to any salad leaves. ‘You should have vegetables with every meal and, as the picture shows, a couple of slices of lettuce in a sandwich won’t cut it,’ says Sian Porter. ‘So buy a pot of salad to have on the side.’
SMALL FRUITS: TWO CUPPED PALMS
A packet of blueberries is about 250g, which is three portions – so you don’t have to eat the entire punnet
An 80g five-a-day portion of small fruit such as berries (or larger fruit cut up in a fruit salad) is roughly what you can fit in your cupped hands. ‘A packet of blueberries is about 250g, which is three portions – so you don’t have to eat the entire punnet,’ says Sian Porter. ‘There’d be no harm eating this much (it would give you around 90 calories), though grapes would have more sugar and 161 calories.’
VEGETABLES: CLENCHED FIST
Twice this amount of broccoli would technically count as two of your five a day, though variety is key
To count as one of your five a day (80g) a serving of veg needs to be at least the size of your fist. ‘Twice this amount of broccoli would technically count as two of your five a day, though variety is key – aim for a rainbow selection of different coloured veg ‘ says Sian Porter. ‘Have several portions of veg – they should fill half a plate.’
UNCOOKED PASTA: CLENCHED FIST
Carbs, for energy and fibre, should make up just a quarter of your plate
This might look small, but pasta doubles in weight once cooked, as it absorbs water. There’s 75g here, giving 219 calories. A portion of uncooked rice is also the size of your fist. Carbs, for energy and fibre, should make up just a quarter of your plate (protein should make up another quarter, the rest should be veg). More than this will pile on calories from extra sauce, too.
NUTS: ONE PALM
A good portion is what you can hold in a cupped palm. ‘Try to eat nuts and seeds one by one’
‘Nuts and seeds are a great snack, they’re filling and contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, but they are calorific,’ says Sian Porter. A good portion is what you can hold in a cupped palm. ‘Try to eat nuts and seeds one by one, spaced out, rather than a few at once,’ she advises.
POTATO: CLENCHED FIST
The potato here is 180g giving 175 calories, but baking potatoes can be twice as big – so think about sharing
‘A portion of carbs should be around 200 calories (250 for a man),’ says Sian Porter. ‘The potato here is 180g giving 175 calories, but baking potatoes can be twice as big – so think about sharing one between two.’
It’s the same for sweet potatoes – but unlike white potatoes these would count as one of your five-a-day.
OILY FISH: PALM OF HAND
One portion a week would give you enough heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in your diet
Like meat, a serving of oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or sardines should be the size of your palm. The fillet here weighs about 100g and would provide around 200 calories – one portion a week would give you enough heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. ‘Unless you’re trying to lose weight, a slightly bigger portion won’t do you any harm,’ says Sian Porter.
BUTTER: THUMB TIP
Any fat – butter, oil, and spreads such as peanut butter (shown here) – should be a serving no bigger than a teaspoon, or the size of the end of your thumb, from the knuckle to the tip of the nail, and no more than two or three portions a day.
CHOCOLATE: INDEX FINGER
A piece of chocolate the size of your index finger works out at around 100 calories (or about 20g – if you’re a bigger person you’d get slightly more), and this would be an appropriate treat.
Any fat – butter, oil, and spreads such as peanut butter (shown here) – should be a serving no bigger than a teaspoon
A piece of chocolate the size of your index finger works out at around 100 calories
CHEESE: TWO THUMBS
Cheese should be around 30g, the length and depth of both thumbs. There are around 125 calories here, giving a third of your daily calcium. ‘This shows you could easily eat 100 calories without thinking,’ says Sian Porter. The same amount grated will go further, making a heap the size of your fist.
CAKE: TWO FINGERS
A piece of cake should be the length and width of two fingers. (One end can be a bit fatter than two fingers if you’re cutting it in a wedge). This makes it around 185 calories (200 for a bigger person) – fine as a treat or snack.
Cheese should be around 30g, the length and depth of both thumbs
A piece of cake should be the length and width of two fingers
Source: Daily Mail
- Malnutrition causing thousands of hospital admissions Tuesday November 24th, 2015
Thousands of patients are being treated for malnutrition at hospitals in England
More than 2,000 cases of patients with malnutrition were recorded by 43 hospital trusts in a single year.
There were 193 “episodes” of malnutrition in 12 months at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust alone, according to new figures.
Freedom of Information (FOI) figures show a rise of 259 between the 43 trusts compared with three years ago.
The Trussell Trust food bank charity said it feared families were struggling to afford to feed themselves.
The government said that malnutrition was “unacceptable”, but there are warnings that parents are going without food so their children do not go hungry.
‘Thousands’ at risk
The figures were revealed as Tameside Hospital, also in Greater Manchester, became the first NHS hospital in the UK to set up a permanent food bank on site.
Medical staff reported a significant increase in the number of malnourished patients turning up for treatment and care.
Trisha Jarman from Tameside East food bank said: “There are a lot of people out there that are malnourished.
“It’s not just people coming into hospital, it’s across the board. People are struggling to feed themselves and their families, particularly at this time of the year.”
The food collection point
Food collection points have been established at Tameside Hospital in Greater Manchester
NHS bosses in Salford have warned that thousands of people in the city, which is included in a pilot scheme aimed at tackling the problem, may be struggling.
Kirstine Farrer, head of innovation and research at Salford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “A report by the BAPEN (British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition) in 2013 suggested that of Salford’s population of 35,000 aged 65 years or older, 14 per cent – or almost 5,000 people – may be at risk of malnutrition.”
She said health services were working with the community to raise awareness and prevent people going hungry.
The figures were revealed following an FOI request by Birmingham City University student Eiryo Saeki to NHS foundation trusts, of which 43 responded.
Hospitals were asked to provide numbers of patients who had been in hospital with symptoms of malnutrition such as Kwashiorkor, a swelling under the skin often found in countries where there is famine or a limited food supply.
Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust said its figures related to “episodes” of malnutrition, and could include patients being counted more than once if they were transferred between consultants.
The figures also showed that Birmingham Children’s Hospital reported 31 instances of malnutrition last year, almost double the number for 2013.
Charity The Trussell Trust said between 31 March and 1 April 2015 food banks in Greater Manchester fed 16,083 people, of whom 6,206 were children.
Chairman Chris Mould said: “Our food banks see tens of thousands of people who have been going hungry, missing meals and cutting back on the quality of the food they buy.
“We meet families across the UK who are struggling to put enough food on the table, and at the extreme end of that you get people who are malnourished.
“We often see parents who are going without food so that they can feed their children, and these parents often struggle to afford enough nutritious food for their children too.”
He said the Trust did not believe anyone should have to go hungry in the UK, and was working with the public, charities and politicians to “find solutions to the underlying causes of food poverty”.
The figures do not break down the ages of the patients but the charity Age UK is concerned about malnutrition in older people.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “In a civilised society people should not be suffering from malnutrition – these figures are shocking.
“Malnutrition in older people, both in the community and in hospitals, is often left undetected.
“Health professionals and those in social care need to get better at spotting the signs and then making sure that a suitable care plan is put in place to ensure those at risk of malnutrition do not slip through the gaps between services and get consistent treatment and support.
“Eating and drinking well is critical when it comes to staying healthy and independent, yet this can become more difficult as we get older.
“It is also important that older people, along with their friends, family and health care professionals, challenge assumptions around malnutrition and don’t ignore the problem.
“For example, people shouldn’t assume that losing weight is automatically part of ageing.”
In Tameside, the hospital’s chief executive, Karen James, said staff had noticed patients are “often coming through malnourished” and when talking to patients “we find out that they are suffering and there is a need”.
She said people were making choices about whether to pay a bill or feed the family.
Three food collection points have been set up at the hospital, with donations delivered to a central warehouse.
Karen James said Tameside’s food collection point it was a response to the growing problem of malnutrition
Natalie Welsh, a nutrition specialist nurse at Tameside, said: “It’s really important that these people are highlighted in our community because quite often by the time they come through our doors and need to be admitted, the damage is already done.
“It can take us a long time to get them to recover from illness and disability because of the malnutrition they have suffered.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Malnutrition is unacceptable. Though the rising figures we have seen may well be in part due to better diagnosis and detection, even more action is required.
“That is why we have ensured that everyone over the age of 40 can have a free NHS health check to spot the warning signs of poor nutrition, and have provided £500k funding to Age UK to reduce malnutrition among older people.”
- Parasitic worm ‘increases women’s fertility’ Monday November 23rd, 2015
Infection with a species of parasitic worm increases the fertility of women, say scientists.
A study of 986 indigenous women in Bolivia indicated a lifetime of Ascaris lumbricoides, a type of roundworm, infection led to an extra two children.
Researchers, writing in the journal Science, suggest the worm is altering the immune system to make it easier to become pregnant.
Experts said the findings could lead to “novel fertility enhancing drugs”.
Nine children is the average family size for Tsimane women in Bolivia. And about 70% of the population has a parasitic worm infection.
Tsimane people live a “forager-farming” existence
Up to a third of the world’s population also lives with such infections.
But while Ascaris lumbricoides increased fertility in the nine-year study, hookworms had the opposite effect, leading to three fewer children across a lifetime.
Prof Aaron Blackwell, one of the researchers , from the University of California Santa Barara, told the BBC News website: “The effects are unexpectedly large.”
He said women’s immune systems naturally changed during pregnancy so they did not reject the foetus.
Prof Blackwell said: “We think the effects we see are probably due to these infections altering women’s immune systems, such that they become more or less friendly towards a pregnancy.”
He said using worms as a fertility treatment was an “intriguing possibility” but warned there was far more work to be done “before we would recommend anyone try this”.
The hookworm lowered fertility
Prof Rick Maizels, a specialist in parasitic worms and the immune system, told the BBC News website: “It’s horrifying that the hookworm effects are so profound, half of women by 26 or 28 have yet to fall pregnant and that’s a huge effect on life.”
Bacterial and viral infections try to outpace the immune system by having explosive population growth.
But Prof Maizels said parasites did the opposite, “growing slowly and trying to suppress the immune system”, which is why they make vaccines less effective and lower levels of allergies.
He suggested hookworm may also be causing anaemia and leading to infertility that way.
Prof Allan Pacey, a fertility scientist at the University of Sheffield, told the BBC: “It is very surprising and intriguing to find that infection with this particular species of roundworm actually enhances fertility.”
He said drugs had been tried to alter a woman’s immune system to boost IVF, but without success.
He added: “Whilst I wouldn’t want to suggest that women try and become infected with roundworms as a way of increasing their fertility, further studies of the immunology of women who do have the parasite could ultimately lead to new and novel fertility enhancing drugs.”
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