Can a British way of eating help you improve your diet?

British-portion-guide_large

Recently, the British Nutrition Foundation came out with a new guide to help people eat healthier. Find Your Balance provides suggestions for practical portion sizes for healthy adults and can be used to help you put a healthy diet into action. 

Similar to MyPlate, Find Your Balance features a colorful pie chart that shows how many portions to aim for from each food group:

  • Five or more servings of fruits and vegetables, a variety of different types each day.
  • Three to four servings of starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta.
  • Two to three servings of protein foods including beans, fish, eggs and meat.
  • Two to three servings of dairy including milk, cheese and yogurt.
  • Small amounts of unsaturated oils and spreads such as butter.

To help measure servings, Find Your Balance recommends using your hands because they’re always with you. For example, a serving of fruit is one handful, a serving of pasta is the size of two hands cupped together and a serving of cheese is about the size of two thumbs together.

Find Your Balance is based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet for a healthy adult woman, so it’s not one size fits all. Everybody has different calorie requirements depending on their age, size, gender and activity level. Also, every hand is different, so a larger person with larger hands will consume more calories relative to their size.

The aim of Find Your Balance isn’t weight loss. Rather, it encourages people to be more mindful about portion size. It’s not an exact measure but it’s a good starting point for people who’ve been eating whatever and however much they want.

There are several benefits to eating this way:

Portion control

Focusing on your portions will help you pay attention to what you’re eating. Many people eat whatever sounds appealing at the time. The guide gives you a ballpark of what to eat and how much to each each day.

Visuals support mindful eating

The visual of using your hands makes it much easier to be more mindful. It’s quick and simple to determine your ideal serving when sitting down to eat something.  Also, when you are focused only on eating, and not multitasking, you’re more likely to recognize your body’s natural cues that you’re full, which will prevent overeating. Studies suggest that mindful eating can improve digestion and cause your body to create more digestive enzymes which help break down food for absorption.

Combats portion distortion

The amount of food we’re served at restaurants has increased over the years. For example, the size of a fast food kid’s meal used to be the standard meal for adults. And the same goes for those cute mini bagels. One mini bagel was the recommended serving size compared to today’s typical bagel, which seems to be getting bigger. 

Colors encourage variety

The reason why they have Find Your Balance color coded is the same way we explain MyPlate to people – you want to have variety in your diet. Different foods give you different nutrients. Eating the rainbow helps you get important nutrients in the right amounts.

Mara Weber is a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. 

 

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