5 portion mistakes you may be making

Emma White - Nutritionist | 12 Jun, 2023

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Learning to manage portion sizes is one of the keys to losing weight, and indeed maintaining a healthy weight. I'm often told by new members that they are shocked to see how much they were eating once they started logging what they actually consumed in a day – often noticing that it was the portion of a particular food that contributed a lot of calories.

When you search for a food in the app, you'll see the result often lists small, medium or large portion sizes, along with the weight. It's important not to guess that your avocado or baking potato is 'medium' – you need to weigh it to be sure. A 'large' baking potato is probably not as big as you imagine!

NC app

We recommend weighing all foods when you are first getting started, as having a visual reference in your head of what a 'medium' or 'large' portion looks like is very helpful. It's also the first thing to check if your weight loss has started to slow – maybe your portion sizes have started to creep up. There are some everyday foods that many of us over-serve, here are 5 classics...

Cereal

1 Cereal

It's so easy to pour it into a bowl and give yourself what looks like a reasonable amount. But more than likely this will be way more than the recommended 'portion'.

We tested this in our office by asking people to pour themselves a 40g serving of various cereals. 90% of people overestimated, some by as much as double! This is absolutely fine providing this is what you're tracking in your diary, but if you mistakenly choose the '40g serving' option in the list the app offers, then you will have vastly underestimated!

Pasta

2 Pasta

Like cereal, pasta is something we tend to tip straight into the saucepan and guess at how much we need. The issue is, pasta absorbs water during cooking so we end up with a bigger volume once it's cooked. So while it may not look like a lot before cooking, it's more than plenty after.

This is why it's so easy to overestimate when we simply free-pour into the pan. Make sure to always weigh before cooking – allow for around 75g dried pasta per person.

Rice

3 Rice

We've all been there – left with a mountain of rice after cooking way too much! Like pasta, many of us pour rice straight into the pan and massively overestimate how much is needed. Rice, like pasta, absorbs water and expands, meaning the original volume is at least doubled. It's then a case of overeating or throwing away leftovers, or both – none of which are great outcomes. Allow 70g dried rice per person to avoid cooking too much.

Cheese

4 Cheese

Although a good source of protein and calcium, cheese is high in fat and salt, so we should consume with this in mind. The recommended portion size is 30g, which is about a matchbox-sized piece of cheddar. But it's incredibly easy to serve ourselves more than this, especially when we simply slice away at the block and fill our sandwich with the amount we think we need.

Avoid going too heavy on the cheese by chopping off a chunk and weighing it to be aware of the amount you're eating. My tip is to grate it onto your sandwich instead – it really does make cheese go so much further!

Olive oil

5 Olive oil

Even though olive oil is very good for us as it contains healthy unsaturated fats, it is still full of fats. And fat is the most calorie dense nutrient with 9 calories per gram, so a small amount can add a lot of calories to our diet.

Free-pouring 'a glug' of olive oil into your pan Jamie Oliver-style can lead to a significant number of extra calories in your dish. Ensure you use measuring spoons to control the amount when cooking with oil or drizzling on salads.

Nutritionist Emma White (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.

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