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At Christmas Watch your Portions

By December 19, 2008 October 20th, 2011 No Comments

It’s Christmas time again and many of our personal training clients are asking us what is the best way to survive the holiday season without getting as big as a house so over the next few blogs I’ll be having a look at some handy personal trainer tips for keeping the bulge under control. The first tip to keep in mind is portion control. Many of us approach a meal with the view that so long as what we are eating is reasonably healthy then all will be well. But even with healthy foods portion size has a big influence on how many calories you are consuming. With unhealthy, fatter foods the situation can go rapidly downhill.

As an exampe I’m going to have a look at cereal. In a recent test at Which magazine, 5 adults were asked to pour themselves a cereal breakfast and add milk and sugar (if they had any). The recommended serving (the one used on the side of the package for the calorie calculations) is 40g, before adding milk, which comes to 144kcal. All the volunteers added more than the suggested serving-four at least twice as much-with calories per bowl ranging from 223 to 535kcal. Translate this extra variation of portion size into christmas pudding and you can begin to see where it can all add up. The variation also continued into sugar added, which in the test ranged from 14.3g to 34.3g per bowl. The amount of milk added also varied widely, with some adding almost 3 times as much as others. This portion variation follows research by the FSA (food standards agency) in 2007 which found that 85% of people had more than the recommended amount for breakfast, as stated on the packaging. So if you regularly read the information on the side of the package to find out how many calories you are having, or how much sugar, salt and fat is in your food, bear in mind that the portion size you eat may not be the same as the one that you are basing your calculations on. It may actually be a lot more than you think. There are of course variations in calorific requirements depending on activity levels, size, body shape and gender, but these guidelines can still be misleading. In the test the total amount of calories for one person was 641 calories.

So what we at Diets Don’t Work personal training recommend, for all meals, is watch your portion size. A good tip is to serve yourself a small portion of everything on the table for christmas dinner, eat it at a steady pace, and then wait a bit to see if you really are still hungry. Be especially careful with foods that have a higher calorie density, like the deadly christmas pudding, the biscuits and the cheese! Keep activity levels as high as you can, so try not to eat lots and then sit down for 2 hours to watch the Wallace and Grommit christmas special, go for a bracing walk first and then relax. Another great tip is to try and have a smaller plate or a smaller bowl-people who try this technique were found to consume up to 30% less calories.

Be as good as you can, and always try to follow the magic personal trainer rule of 80/20-eat like an angel for 80% of the time so that you can let it go a bit for the other 20%. Happy Holidays!   

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