Saturday 16 December 2017

Use your hand as a portable measuring device and take control of food intake

Cameron Diaz at the UK gala screening of The Other Woman, which helped win her the worst actress award
Cameron Diaz at the UK gala screening of The Other Woman, which helped win her the worst actress award

One of the keys to successful fat loss is having a sound nutrition plan in place.

You can have the best intentions in the world but if you are following the wrong nutrition advice then you will fail.

At the heart of any sound nutrition plan there should be a focus on nutrient-dense foods and proper control of energy balance so it leaves you feeling and looking your best.

What to Eat and Why

The contents of your shopping trolley should be focused on foods that are rich in nutrients; including protein, fats, carbs, micronutrients, and phytonutrients (plant based nutrient power). Understanding why is key:

Protein is essential for best health. It is the basic building block for our bodies, and most importantly, it is essential for preventing muscle wastage while in a calorie deficit.

Fats play a structural and regulatory role in the body as well as providing energy. Healthy fats are necessary for your brain, your eyes and your hormones to work properly and for maintaining a healthy immune system.

The last macronutrient is carbohydrates - our main source of energy. They include sugars, such as table sugar, fruit, milk, and starches such as those in vegetables and grains.

Vitamins and minerals play a huge role in optimising our health and making us feel full, as well as helping our bodies to function to the best of their ability.

It's vital to stock up on micronutrient power from colourful vegetables and fruits, so the body can be as efficient as possible.

Shopping List

When you go shopping, make sure to eat a meal first, so you are not tempted to make irrational decisions based on your rampant hunger levels.

A good place to start is with the list below of nutrient-dense foods. If you build your diet around these foods, you will be eating better than 90pc of the population.


• Lean red meat

• Salmon, tuna and cod

• Chicken and turkey

• Eggs and egg whites

• Low fat natural Greek yogurt (such as Fage or Liberte)

• Cottage cheese

• Beans, peas, legumes


• Raw unsalted mixed nuts

• Avocados

• Coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil

• Tinned coconut milk

• Fish oil (capsules or oily fish)

• Flaxseeds (ground)

• Full fat dairy


• Anything green/red/yellow/orange/purple/white

• Cruciferous vegetables

• Tomatoes

• Mixed berries

• Oranges

• Apples


• Quinoa

• Whole oats

• Rice

• Sweet and white potatoes

• Bananas

• Whole grains and sprouted grains


• Any herbs and spices

• Hot sauce

• Harissa paste

• Curry paste

• Soy or tamari sauce

• Vinegars

• Unsweetened nut milk

• Herbal and green teas

You do not have to buy everything on the list, especially foods that you do not like to eat.

There is nothing magical about any of the individual foods listed; as long as you are eating a variety from each food group (protein, fats, and carbs) and plenty of veggies and some fruits then you'll be just fine.

Also don't ever believe when you hear about "the best fat burning foods" - there is no such thing. Note how there is no reference to superfoods either - again there is no such thing.

The term "superfood" is not a scientific term and there is no published literature to define what it means. The term is therefore based on fake science and is yet another phrase coined to take your money.

Instead, focus on the nutrient-dense foods listed, to feel and look super without the super price tag.

Putting it Together

So far the aim has been to maximise nutrient intake and our health. Next, we must determine how much of each type of food to eat.

While the quality of our food plays a huge role in determining our health, the main driver for fat loss is how much of it we eat. So there should be an element of portion control to overcome the potential of overeating.

So first up - grab yourself a plate, a smaller one than normal. Using a larger plate encourages you to pile more food on, which ultimately means you eat more. By using a smaller plate, you will put less food on, and you will eat less.

This is a good way to trick ourselves into eating less if we have a tendency to clean your plate regardless of satiety cues.

Next we need to control how much food we put on the plate. We can do this by counting the amount of calories we eat, but it's a laborious task and takes the enjoyment out of food.

Instead, we are going to use our own hand as a personalised and portable measuring device to control our food intake. This is a very simple way to control food intake without having to count calories.

Ideally, every time we eat a meal, we should include protein, fats, carbs, and veggies, but we must be flexible and adjust the suggested portions below based on our hunger and fullness cues. The following portions sizes are a building template and not set in stone:

Use the palm of your hand to measure protein intake. Women should aim to eat 1 palm size with each meal and men should aim for 2.

Use your thumb to measure fat intake. Women should aim for 1 thumb of fat, and men should aim for 2.

Use your cupped hand to measure starchy carbohydrate intake. As a general guideline, women should aim for 1 cupped handful, and men should aim for 2.

Use your fist to measure vegetables intake. Everyone should aim to eat at least 1-2 fist-sized servings of vegetables with each meal.

How often we eat is largely dependent on personal preference, but eating every 2-4 hours is a good way to keep hunger at bay. Eat when hungry and stop when satisfied, not stuffed.

Check out our sample food menu, below right, to gauge what a typical day of food in real life might look like.

98fm DJ Ray Foley is following a nutrition plan devised by Karen in order to shed a couple of stone that crept on due to a hectic schedule coupled with early morning starts for his radio show.

When we started out, I warned Ray of the dangers of going gung-ho with his new lifestyle, and suggested he make one or two manageable changes at a time instead.

One positive change is with his dinners. Instead of using starchy carbs as the foundation, his main meal is now based around protein and veggies.

Another positive change for Ray is the introduction of breakfast. One of his favourites is whole oats with some Greek yogurt for protein mixed through with mixed berries for flavour and nutrient power.

Next week, we will take a look at the importance of adopting a positive support system, goal setting, how failing to prepare is preparing to fail, and what to do when we inevitably slip up along the way.

Karen is personal trainer and runs online nutrition programmes. See www.thenutcoach.com or email karen@thenutcoach.com





l Protein and fats: Whole eggs (1-2 for women, 3-4 for men)

l Protein: Chopped ham (75g for women, 150g for men)

l Veggies: 1-2 fist-sized portions of peppers, onions and mushrooms

l Fats: Small sprinkle of cheese

l Non-starchy carb: Handful of berries

l Fluids: Water, green tea, or coffee


Mexican Bowl

l Protein: Palm-sized portion of chicken (1 for women, 2 for men)

l Veggies: 1-2 fist-sized portions of tomatoes, cucumbers and spinach

l Starchy carb: Handful of black beans (1 for women, 2 for men)

l Fats: Thumb of guacamole (1 for women, 2 for men)

l Fluids: Water, green tea, or coffee



l Protein: Scoop of protein powder (1 for women, 2 for men)

l Veggies: 1-2 fist-sized portion of spinach

l Fats: Thumb of nut butter (1 for women, 2 for men)

l Non-starchy carb: Cupped handful of frozen mixed berries (1 for women, 2 for men)

l Fluids: 250ml unsweetened almond milk or water, ice cubes



l Protein: Palm-sized portion of pork (1 for women, 2 for men)

l Veggies: 1-2 fist-sized portions of mixed green veggies

l Fats: Thumb of butter (1 for women, 2 for men)

l Starchy carb: Cupped handful of sweet potato (1 small for women, 1 medium for men)

l Fluids: Water or green tea

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