Investigation of the effectiveness of portion-size guidance in addition to the Eatwell plate
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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Background: The concurrent increase in food portion sizes and obesity levels suggests a need for increased public awareness of appropriate portions. Recent research has investigated the potential for quantitative guidance on the Eatwell plate. This study aims to 1) assess whether portion-size guidance, in addition to the Eatwell plate, improves participants’ ability to plan a healthy meal; and 2) to determine which forms of guidance (weights or household measures) are most effective for different foods. Methods: A pretest-posttest study design was employed. In the pretest, participants selected usual portions of food items (from food photographs) to create three separate meals. Participants repeated this task after randomisation to one of three groups: group 1 received the Eatwell plate alone (‘Eatwell’ group); group 2 the Eatwell plate plus portion-guidance in weights (‘Weights’ group); group 3 the Eatwell plate plus portion-guidance in household measures (‘HM’ group). Results: Portion-size selections of four out of 11 food items in the Eatwell group (n=11) were significantly improved in the posttest condition (p<0.05). No significant differences in portion sizes after guidance were seen in the Weights group (n=11). In the HM group (n=11) eight out of 11 food items were significantly improved in the posttest condition (p<0.05). Between-group analyses (adjusting for pretest portions) consistently showed significantly larger portions of vegetables selected by the HM group vs. Weights group (p<0.05). Conclusions: The Eatwell plate alone is effective in improving portions of some commonly-consumed foods; though possible confounding by higher education levels in this group is acknowledged. Portion-guidance in household measures demonstrates most promise in terms of improving portion-size selections within a meal.
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