Healthy eating for weight management

A three step plan

Weight Concern recommends that you concentrate on changing one aspect of your eating at a time.

We recommend a 3-step eating approach:

What is regular eating?

  • Eating at regular times throughout the day
  • Avoiding long periods of time between each meal
  • Keeping the same pattern of meals from day to day
  • It simple terms this means having Breakfast, Lunch and an Evening Meal, with 1-2 snacks in between meals (ideally fruit or vegetables) every day.

Why eat regularly?

Eating regularly will mean that:

  • You will find it easier to stop eating at the end of a meal
  • You will find that you are ready to eat at mealtimes
  • You will be less likely to think about foods in between meals
  • You won't need to resort to high fat snacks because of missed meals

What makes eating regularly difficult?

  • Work patterns
  • Family/home environment
  • Stress
  • Temptations
  • Social life

Here are some comments that some people have made as to why eating regularly is difficult:

"I have a hectic work schedule which doesn't allow me time for lunch"

"I leave the house very early in the morning, which means I never have time for breakfast"

"I never feel hungry at breakfast time"

Overcoming barriers to eating regularly

  • Make time for yourself, particularly at work to ensure that you have at least 10 minutes for your lunch
  • Take a piece of fruit to have on the way to work if you don't have time for breakfast in the morning
  • If you find it difficult to eat at breakfast time, this is because your body has learnt to feel hungry at certain times. So if you don't usually eat in the morning you won't feel hungry. However it is possible to change your body clock. Start by having a small amount to eat in the morning, such as a piece of fruit or ½ a slice of toast.

Tips for regular eating

  1. Planning- plan in advance the times that you are going to have your meals. It might be hard at first but try to stick to your plan and things will become much easier.
  2. Don't leave long gaps between your meals. The longer the gap between eating episodes, the more likely you are to become excessively hungry and this may mean that you eat larger amounts of food or calorie dense foods.
  3. If you lapse from your plan and eat unplanned snacks or meals, return to your plan as soon as possible.

Our bodies need a variety of nutrients in order to be healthy and function properly. Unfortunately no single food can provide us with all the nutrients that we need, so we have to eat a variety of foods.

Our bodies need some foods in larger amounts than others. This means that no food is banned, but we need to be careful about the amount we eat of each food.

What are you aiming for? The Balance of Good Health

The Balance of Good Health represents the types of foods and the proportions in which to eat them in order to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. The foods we eat are divided into five food groups. The model below illustrates the five food groups and proportions of each of the foods required for a healthy diet.

The basic message is:

  • Choose most of your foods from
    • bread, other cereals and potatoes
    • fruit and vegetables
  • Have smaller amounts of milk and dairy foods and smaller amounts of meat, fish and alternatives
  • Have tiny amounts of fatty and sugary foods

The Balance of Good Health

Reproduced with permission from the Foods Standards Agency

In order to lose weight, you will need to look at the amount of food that you are eating and think about cutting down the portions of food that you eat. This may sound simple but larger portions contain more calories and will cause your weight to increase. Look at the equation below:

Cut down quantities

In this step we will provide you with information about how much food you can eat from each food group and examples of amounts to eat.

Weighing out your food

When you first start to look at reducing your portion sizes, you may find it helpful to weigh out the unit sizes we recommend. This will help you to learn how much you can eat.

With certain foods, such as the fruits and vegetables and cereal based products, you may be surprised about the amount that you can have.

What are portions and servings?

The words 'portion' and 'serving' mean different things to different people. This often results in a great deal of confusion, particularly for you, when you are deciding how much you can eat of a particular food.

Current definitions of 'portions' and 'servings'

Dictionary definition

Portion: part, share or helping

Serving: single portion/amount of food taken at a meal

Food Industry definition

Portion: "A portion is either a division of a package as a whole, e.g. half a quiche, a sausage, a sixth of a cake, two biscuit, or a complete package"

Serving: "A quantified serving is a measured amount, which may or may not be a division of the whole package, e.g. x oz of cheese, a …. Spoon (yml) of mayonnaise"

Health Professionals

A serving is an amount of food used together with the number of those servings that should provide the daily total of food from each of the food groups.

Key points to remember about portion sizes on food labels

  • Food portions described on food labels do not describe the amount of food required to provide a healthy balanced diet
  • Portion sizes described on food labels do not necessarily describe a healthy portion of food and that this may cause you to eat larger amounts of food (and calories) than you need.
  • The information on a food label describes the specific amount of that food that has been defined as a portion by the food manufacturer.

The Shape-Up Programme

Weight Concern's self help programme, 'Shape-Up' contains detailed guidance on following the three step healthy eating and activity plans.