Pretoria - Portion distortion is a major culprit in South Africa’s growing obesity crisis, according to a statement released for National Nutrition Week.

“We’re supersizing into a massive health emergency,” said Lynn Moeng, the Department of Health’s chief director of health promotion, nutrition and oral health.

“Many prepackaged snacks and treats are larger than the recommended daily allowance, people are eating out more and taking advantage of perceived added-value options of upsized fast-food orders and exercising less,” said Moeng.

“All of this adds up to people eating their way to a multitude of serious obesity-related health problems including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.”

The message of National Nutrition Week is: Choose your portion with caution. Knowing how much to eat and the basic food groups and understanding what foods should be avoided, could save lives.

The campaign’s guideline for measuring portion sizes for adults:

l Starchy foods – pap, rice, samp, pasta and potato – a clenched fist.

l Proteins such as lean meat, fish and chicken – the size of a palm.

l Vegetables – two open handfuls.

l Cooked beans, split peas, lentils, nuts – one open handful.

l Oils, soft margarine and mayonnaise – one thumb tip.

l Peanut butter and hard cheese – the length of a thumb.

Other tips:

l Dish up the right size portions before sitting down and avoid going for a second helping.

l Stick to regular meal times – breakfast, lunch and dinner.

l Eat until satisfied – not until full.

l Say “no” to the temptation of upsizing fast-food meals so you don’t feel obliged to overeat.

l Include a variety of nutritious foods from various groups at every meal – starchy foods (preferably unrefined), fruit and vegetables, lean protein, dairy and dry beans and soya.

l Cut back significantly on salt, sugar, sweetened foods and drinks. Drink plenty of clean, safe water.

Maretha Vermaak of Milk SA’s Consumer Education Project suggests using smaller plates, preparing own healthy snacks and lunch for school or work and eating only when hungry.

Pretoria News

l National Nutrition Week is a joint initiative by the Department of Health, the Association for Dietetics in SA the Consumer Goods Council of SA, the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA and the Consumer Education Project of Milk SA.