How big is a ‘portion’ really?

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What exactly is a serving?

A portion of ice cream, a portion of dinner or a portion of mixed salad has, at least as a starting point, different sizes. And if, for example. would like to make a lifestyle change, then portion sizes can be an important – yes, in fact crucial – marker. There are many and long formulas that explain how much energy (calories) a person needs during a day for the number on the scales to be stable. If you want to lose weight, you have to cut down on the number of calories – and if you need to gain a few kilos, then you have to eat more calories than usual.
It sounds in principle very simple, like a calculation that just has to go up, and it is in and of itself. The reality is just that we as humans do not just fit into a simple calculation – because we are physiologically very different as individuals. It is different how good we are at utilizing the nourishment we consume. Our intestines are responsible for extracting the nutrients we need, and the residual product then ends up in the basin later. This means that it depends on our intestinal system how good we are at utilizing the food we eat.

Lion hunger and obesity

But that is the more technical approach to our physiology, and we will go deeper into that in a later post. If we are to be a little more practical instead, then you have thought about how many (or few) times you eat during a day, how big (or small) your portions are – and whether your habits are actually optimal for your hunger-satiety regulation.
If, for example. goes too long before you react to being hungry, you easily become what I call lion hungry. A lion’s hunger usually ends in an overeating, because the hunger has become so great that the food is almost thrown down the throat. We are therefore going to eat a very large amount of food in a very short time and get the feeling of being stuffed and most of all want to fall over on the couch to ‘beat stomach’. When lion hunger strikes, it is often also the urge for the very sugary and fatty foods that dominates, and therefore we can actually well – without having time to think about it – get to eat whole day’s calories in one meal.

Sizes and saturation signals

According to the simple calculation from before, the rest of what we then eat and drink that day will be excess calories and – if it is something that is often repeated – means a weight gain. A French hot dog contains e.g. typically 600 calories – and there was only one. With an ordinary Viennese sausage, mind you… If you only ate them, how many would you have to eat in a whole day to maintain a feeling of satiety? This is where portion size really comes into play when we talk about the feeling of satiety. For one thing is that some foods contribute better to your feeling of satiety than others, something else is that the way you serve the food also matters a lot.

Good advice for portion sizes

Here are some tips on how to work with portion sizes – and still get full:

  • Available quantity – If there is a large quantity of food available, for example, on a platter, we eat more food than if it were portioned. The same goes for take-your-own buffets, where you just have to taste it all.
  • Side dish – Is your plate almost the size of a dish? Then it is quite likely that you frequently eat more because the food seems of less. If you are not lion hungry for the evening meal, try eating your dinner off a lunch plate.
  • Fiber and whole grains – Fills more of our gastrointestinal system, so we get full faster. Try e.g. to eat wholemeal pasta for the meat sauce instead of white pasta.
  • Colors – A colorful meal stimulates our brain and makes it full of impressions. The food thus gets a greater value with us when it is colorful. Check out your dinner plate – how many colors can you find? And not just shades of brown…
  • Taste – The more flavor, the more satiety signals. Practice putting together your meals so that you get the full range of flavors of sour, sweet, salty, bitter and umami. Which tastes matter to you? For myself, sweet or salty elements play an important role in relation to salads, a small sprinkle of chopped salted almonds or dried or fresh fruit, and thereby I happily eat the salad.
  • Consistency – How many times do you chew your food before swallowing? Sink-light food, e.g. pasta with meat sauce, we often forget to chew properly and therefore do not always have time to taste it. And therefore also easily comes to eat too much. We use far more good energy to chew on and taste e.g. raw food and salads. What textures are there in your food? Is there anything that is soft, crunchy, fresh and creamy?

So there are many factors at play in relation to which portion is right for you. I hope you have been inspired to be curious about your meal structure. So how many meals do you eat and how big? And remember: The satiety signals are first sent to the brain for about 20 minutes. after a commenced meal. Then stretch your meal over min. 20 and then judge if you are actually hungrier. Bon appetite.

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