Monday 26 February 2018

Portion sizes growing along with our bulging waistlines

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan
Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan
Adam Cullen

Adam Cullen

A third of Irish people are struggling to maintain healthy portion sizes, a study has revealed.

The Safefood survey, led by a research team from the University of Ulster, also found consumers only consider portion size a factor in dieting.

However, experts warn that attitudes must change if Ireland is to tackle its growing obesity problem.

Director of Human Health and Nutrition at Safefood, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, said that, with two in three adults now overweight or obese, the issue of portion size has never been more important.

"Traditionally, we've been brought up to finish everything on our plate, but instead of eating until we are full, we should only eat until we are satisfied," she said.

The research also showed that using simple tools such as measuring cups and smaller spoons can help maintain healthier sized meals. It recommended that filling up with water, vegetables or fruit, and eating more slowly can also aid in beating the bulge.

Lack of self-control, social pressures and habits ingrained from childhood have all been highlighted as key reasons for increased portion size.

However, Dr Foley-Nolan said: "All of us need to cut down on the portions we're eating of most foods."

She explained that eating just an extra 100 calories a day could easily add up to 4.5kg of extra weight in a year.

She also warned that "so-called healthy or low-fat" options may also be contributing to the nation's growing waistline.

"Many people assume these products are lower in calories than they are and generally end up eating more, as a result," she explained.

The food watchdog also expressed concern over the growing size of takeaway portions.

Previous research has shown that some takeaway helpings can contain enough food for two people. But the latest report shows that the average doner kebab is now 177pc bigger than it was in the 1990s, while spring rolls and battered sausages have doubled in size.


Baked goods have also ballooned with the average doughnut or muffin now four times bigger than just over a decade ago. The average weight of a Danish pastry grew from 47g to 250g between 1998 and 2011, representing a staggering 436pc increase.

Following the findings, Safefood has developed a visual portion size guide so consumers can identify suitably sized helpings.

"When it comes to controlling portion size, one in three people have said they face the greatest difficulty in the home. As this is where we can have the greatest impact on the amount we eat, we have developed a guide so consumers can find out just what they should be eating," added Dr Foley-Nolan.

The portion size guide can be found at

Irish Independent

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