When it comes to food, we sometimes forget that size matters. Even if you’re a healthy eater you can have too much of a good thing. Gigantic helpings, or even just a little over-indulgence every day can really add up. An excess of food can, more often than not, mean an excess of calories, which in turn can lead to weight gain.


At The British Heart Foundation, we know that your weight can make a significant difference to your risk of heart disease. Being overweight puts you more at risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. So, along with choosing a healthy, balanced diet we also need to keep an eye on how much we are eating.

Top tips to avoid pumped-up portions…

  • A standard-sized portion can look small on a large plate, which makes you feel short-changed. Using a smaller plate, or a bowl, will stop you overloading.
  • Side dishes count too. Lots of us like to have some bread or chips as a side dish. However, if you already have some starchy carbohydrate with your meal, such as rice, potatoes or pasta, then you’re doubling up. If you know you’ll want some bread on the side, cut down the starchy food on your plate.
  • Measuring cups could help when it comes to getting your portion right for things like pasta and rice. Using measuring cups will stop you overestimating how much food you need.
  • Sweet tooth? It can be easy to get into the habit of having a pudding after dinner but your dessert doesn’t always have to be devilish. An apple or some fat-free yogurt with berries will give you the sweet fix minus the added fats and sugars.
  • Finished your meal and hungry for more? Wait about 20 minutes before reaching for a second helping. It can take a little while for you to feel full after eating so give your brain time to catch up and you might not need that extra portion.

Two plates of spaghetti Bolognese

Get the balance right…

We all need a certain amount of energy to keep us going and to fuel our activities. The approximate amount of energy needed as part of a healthy diet is 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 for men. However, your current weight and how active you are will influence how many calories you need each day.

It’s not just calories that count though; it’s still important to make sure your meals contain the right balance of fruit and vegetables, dairy, protein, and starchy foods. It’s also not always about reducing your portions either. When it comes to fruit and vegetables, for example, we need to make sure we get at least five portions a day.

Be aware of pre-packaged portions…

Nowadays, when lots of things come ready-made and pre-packaged, it can seem easier to buy convenience foods. But look closely at the number of servings each pack contains – they might be intended for more people than you think.

More like this

However, pre-packaged foods aren’t the only option for time-stretched cooks - preparing your own meals from scratch doesn’t have to take hours. Making your own food means you know exactly what’s gone in the pot and also gives you control over how much you serve.

Want to make something individual? Cooking something that comes in individual servings will help you to avoid heaping food onto your plate. Prepare one of these tasty options which are small but perfectly formed:

Recipe suggestions...

Spiced pepper pilafs
Chicken & leek pot pies
Tortilla tapas

For more information on heart health...

Spotlight on… heart disease
The British Heart Foundation

This page was updated on 24 June 2019.

A qualified nutritionist (MBANT), Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).


All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Choose the type of message you'd like to post