All-you-can-eats, buffets and enticing food offers have overhauled the way we consume food. Now an indulgence of all things sweet and savoury all at once, this very western way of dining has been partly blamed for the rise in obesity. Put that together with portion sizes increasing at home and there really is no wonder that around 13% of the world’s population were considered obese in 2014. And even the rise of the health conscious individuals plastered over social media seemingly hasn’t managed to buck this trend.
We know it’s all too easy too easy to put that extra handful of pasta into a pan, have the last slice of pizza even though you’re full and go back for seconds once you’ve polished off one plateful, but doing so regularly could seriously damage your health for life. Excess calories, fat and the simple addition of too much food – even if it’s relatively healthy - can cause problems in the future. So how much exactly should you be eating every day?
Every week it seems there are new guidelines of how much we should eat, when we should eat it and indeed what percentage of our food should contain which food group. And as with most things health-related, there isn’t a single answer for everyone; it all depends on different factors such as your lifestyle, body and metabolism. When it comes to calories it’s been suggested for many years that to maintain weight, women should eat around 2,000 calories per day, and men should consume around 2,500 calories per day.
However these guides are founded on certain factors, such as activity level, age, current weight, medications, job – but to name a few, thus they are not conclusive to everyone. Those who do not undertake the recommended 30 minutes of exercise every day for example should reduce their intake accordingly, whereas those who are more active, such as runners and individuals who undertake resistance and strength training regularly should up their intake to enable them to perform at maximum capacity. And to make matters more complex, depending on the food you consume, entirely depends on how much you should eat of it. Foods that contain fibre for instance can usually be consumed in larger amounts than those which contain low levels of fibre.
That being said, there are certain guides you should follow when it comes to your food intake. And it all starts with the stomach. The average human stomach is around 10 cm wide at its widest point, and has an average capacity of 0.94 litres. Essentially around the size of a fist, this may come as a surprise to many as the stomach is often thought of as a much larger organ. But when you overeat, the stomach stretches to accommodate the extra food before returning to its natural state once the food has been digested. But should you continue to eat large meals, the stomach very rarely gets the chance to go back down to its natural size causing regular a bloated feeling. With this in mind, it’s important to remember how big the stomach is to how much food you have in front of you. An average fist is not particularly large, so neither should your portions. A balanced, healthy meal which contains a protein, vegetables and a carbohydrate for example should be made up of:
- A palm sized piece of protein, such as lean beef, chicken or a meat substitute
- A clenched fist size of carbohydrates, and
- A handful of vegetables in order to get around two portions.
This should be used for lunch and dinner, with breakfast focused on the individual food guidelines. For example a 30g serving of wholegrain cereal, 40g of porridge and 250ml of milk (or a milk substitute) or a slice of toast with a teaspoon of butter. Snacks are also recommended throughout the day should you feel the hunger pangs mid-morning. After all, if you are keeping to the above guides, your stomach should not be stretched, therefore the grumbles will be the result of actual hunger and not simply a sudden shortage of food.
It is important to remember however that these are a guide only for healthy adults, and of you undertake more or less physical activity than the recommended, are taking certain medication or any other factors not mentioned, you should seek advice if you are struggling with portions, weight or health. And always make sure you stop eating should you feel full – even if you have followed the guides above and find yourself full long before others.
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