The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has launched a practical guide to portion sizes called “Find Your Balance”.
The guide uses simple hand and spoon measurements to help consumers estimate appropriate portions, when cooking and serving food. It is designed to complement the Government’s Eatwell Guide, which provides guidance on the proportions of the main food groups that make up a healthy diet.
To develop the portion size guidelines, BNF’s nutrition scientists reviewed portion size guidance from other countries, analysed portion sizes currently consumed in the UK, and what is available to buy in supermarkets. These portion sizes were modelled in test diets to ensure they could meet current food and nutrient-based recommendations.
Based on this, guidance was developed on how often to eat foods from the main food groups and sensible portion sizes for healthy adults, based on an average daily calorie allowance of 2000kcal.
The researchers found “a lot of variation in the portion sizes people reported eating”. The BNF’s suggested portion size for cooked pasta is 180 grams (254kcal), for example, but the most commonly consumed size was 230 grams (324kcal). About 10% of the sample were consuming 350 grams as a portion, which would provide nearly 500 calories from the pasta alone, before sauces and sides were added to the meal.
The BNF has packaged its portion size guidance into three free resources: a fridge poster, a booklet and a longer digital resource.
There is also advice regarding how often the suggested portions of foods from different groups should be eaten during the day. This is as follows:
- Fruit and vegetables – 5+ portions per day
- Starchy carbohydrates – 3-4 portions per day
- Protein foods – 2-3 portions per day
- Dairy and alternatives – 2-3 portions per day
- Unsaturated oils and spreads – small amounts.