With fat and sugar current hot topics, ‘eating in moderation’ is a common term being thrown around these days. Criticised as being too vague and difficult to measure, it’s a typical response that many dietitians (including myself) talk about. ‘There are no good or bad foods,” and “all foods can fit into a healthy diet” are variations on the moderation theme. But is moderation actually the right approach?
What exactly is moderation?
Here lies the problem. Moderation is a very subjective term that can mean very different things to different person. My idea of moderation could be your idea of infrequent (never) while another’s idea of moderation could be my idea of frequent! Take chocolate for example. If my idea of moderation meant that I ate chocolate maybe once or twice a week, someone else eating a piece of chocolate every day could easily seem like frequent consumption to me – even if at the end of the week we both ate exactly the same amount!!
Moderation is about finding a balance between two extremes – deprivation and overindulging. Strategies and habits that can be maintained long term as part of a lifestyle to avoid a yoyo effect between these extremes. It’s not a license to eat whatever we want whenever we want, but finding a balance that suits you. That’s why there isn’t a specific number attached – there is no one-size fits all approach.
Finding a balance that suits you (and your self control) is an important part of eating in moderation. Take marshmallows for example. On the whole I’m not really a sweet-eating person. Then there’s marshmallows!!! Once I’ve started eating one its hard to stop until I start to feel sick. My marshmallow self-control meter just doesn’t work! So for me the best option is to not buy marshmallows too frequently. I’ll have them every now and again (usually when someone else has bought them), but if they aren’t in the cupboards I’m unlikely to go out and buy some. Out of sight out of mind!
Most things in moderation
When I really think about it, I actually don’t follow the whole ‘everything in moderation’ idea anyway. Not truly. Vegetables make up a huge part of what I eat. That’s not moderation! On the other hand, a visit to the fish and chip shop probably only happens once or twice a year. My style is much more along the always/sometimes/rarely approach. Fruit & vege? Always! You’d never meet your 5 a day without including them on a daily basis. That tempting death-by-chocolate cheesecake staring at you in the supermarket? Best kept to rare special occasions.
“Everything in moderation… including moderation” ~ Oscar Wilde
“Moderation is a fatal thing – nothing succeeds like excess” ~ Oscar Wilde
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” ~ Michael Pollan
5 moderation tricks
- Out of sight out of mind – Serve foods like nuts/chips/sweets/chocolate into a measured amount (e.g. a small bowl) and then put the packet away to avoid mindless munching that only stops when you reach the bottom of the Dorito’s packet
- Portion distortion – Use smaller plates and bowls to serve portions that look bigger and avoid the ‘eyes bigger than the belly’ but have to finish the plate…..
- Eat slowly. You’ve heard it before but it does take your brain and body a while to register it’s full. Eat meals at a slower pace and chances are you’ll be satisfied with a smaller portion.
- Keep the leftovers in the kitchen, not on the table. – Keeping the extra servings off the table and putting the leftovers away can help avoid eating a double-dinner.
- Hungry or thirsty? – It’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger and snack more frequently than normal. Keep a bottle of water/jug by your desk and keep sipping during the day to stay hydrated.
What tricks do you use?
Blogs on moderation worth reading