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If, like many people, you’re wondering why it seems so hard to avoid putting on weight, consider this: in just 20 years, many portion sizes have nearly tripled.

A serving of French fries that contained 210 calories in 1995 could well have reached 610 by 2015, while a slice of cake may have gone from 260 to 640 calories.

When you understand this extraordinary growth in serving size, the fact that so many people struggle with their weight starts to make a lot more sense.

And the more we eat larger portions, the more we expect them. So how do we tackle the problem?

Size matters

The key starting point is not to make sudden, big changes. Don’t cut your portion sizes in half and expect to stick to the plan.

Instead, gradually bring portion sizes down and work on developing healthy habits when it comes to filling your plate.

Simple things such as weighing ingredients like pasta will help avoid preparing too much food and reduce waste.

preparing pasta 

Schemes such as MyPlate in the US and the EatWell Guide in the UK offer a helpful visualisation to make sure the correct proportion of each food type is being eaten.

In general, the focus is on increasing vegetables and fruit so that they make up roughly half the plate. Grains and lean protein should each make up the remaining quarters of the plate.

To help estimate the right portion size, vegetable portions should be the size of a fist, cooked grains should be a handful, cooked protein the size of your palm, and fats or oils about the same size as a fingertip.

Reducing portion size will not only help keep your waistline in check, but also minimize food waste, keeping the shopping bill down as well.

Do the Delboeuf

The Delboeuf Illusion is the name of an optical illusion around relative size perception.

Put simply, if you serve two identical meals on a big plate and a small plate, the meal on the smaller plate looks bigger.

various plates 

So big plates not only give us more space to pile on food, they actually make our meals seem smaller, prompting us to want more.

Try using smaller plates as you reduce your portion sizes too.

Dessert design

Instead of trying to cut out desserts all together, reduce portion size and try replacing calorie-rich ingredients with healthier options.

Replace heavy, cream-based desserts with yogurt-based desserts, instead of adding sugar, use cocoa or spices like cinnamon which enhance sweetness perception.

When it comes to our coffee, calorie counts have been shooting up just as much as in our food. A cup may have had just 50 calories in 1995 but many coffee drinks now can easily run to more than 300 calories. So, hold the toppings and syrups too, and use low-fat or non-fat milk.

coffee latte 

Healthy eating is an essential part of maintaining an active lifestyle and staying in the best shape possible.

Good Health & Wellbeing is the third of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and Nestlé is playing an active part in helping achieve those goals.

By developing habits around about how we prepare and serve our meals we can help give our bodies the healthy, balancing diet they need to thrive.

If you are a Chef, you can find tips for professionals at NutriPro.