Thursday, 29 September 2011

Portion control for common Malaysian food and tricks to control portion during festive seasons.

It's pretty easy to overeat in Malaysia where you are often served much more than what you suppose to. Malaysian also are generally generous people.Try to go to any open house and people will comment "Why you eat so little, go go take some more" and you still have 5 more houses to go!. So typically its pretty easy to eat over 2500 calories for every Open house trip a day, thus the reason why people tend to gain at least 1kg on every festivities, like Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Gawai, so that's 4 kg at least, for Swakian. Here are tricks I use every time I go to open house :

1. Have bee hun in your plate. Bee hun contain least amount of calories for main dish compared to rice, noodle or other main dish. While make your plate look filled up.

2. Have lots of fruits and salad if available, skip the dressings or have minimum amount.

3. Try getting as lean meat as possible, rendang is great source of lean meat but minimize the gravy. Sate is great too but skip those juicy skin. I'll go for breast meat and

4. If possible go for plain water instead of carbonated drinks, alternatively fruit juice is OK too. For cordial drinks, if it is too sweet, add up mineral water.

5. Have high fiber, low cal crackers for your "Dinner" or "Lunch" if you go for open house at odd hours.. e.g 3pm.. too late for lunch, too early for Dinner. This prevent gastritis if you are a person like me who must eat something at a set time.

Well, even after extensive measure as above, its quite difficult to go down at least 1500 kcal per open house trip. So maybe burn it off the next day by going hiking, gym etc.

Picture source :

Anyway back to portion control. There are various food pyramid, for example the ones by USDA, Malaysian Health ministry etc. For me pesonally here is how I divide my portion for weight loss:

Grains, cereal group (e.g rice, pasta etc) = 4 servings a day

Fruit & vegetable = 5 servings a day

Meat = 2 servings a day

Nuts = 1 servings a day

Oil = max 4 teaspoon.

Milk = 2 servings per day

Take note that I reduce the intake of grains and meat which is the main contributor of calories and mantaining the recommended amount for others.

Following these guideline, I manage to bring down calories intake by 20% a day while still mantaining other nutritions such as Vitamins and Minerals ( I always achieve 100% or more RDI of Vitamins according to MyfitnessPal). By cutting down only 20% of calories, I still feel energetic and full and although at times, usually close to a meal I feel slightly hungry but it is not starving (where your hands shiver and you feel extremely weak). People tend to overeat when they starve but this way I find its easier not to overeat.


I realise in Malaysia a "normal" portion of rice per serving per meal is about 1.5 . That's about 150 kcal extra, or 450 kcal extra per 3 meal, equivalent an extra meal per day! .

A portion is actually 1 bowl of unheaped rice, or perhaps slightly bigger than an average Malaysian male fist. So it looked something like this:



Meat :

1 serving of meat (beef,chicken breast etc, including salmon block) is equivalent to 1 deck of card, which is slightly larger than a palm without fingers

Vegetable :

1 serving of vegetable look like this:

Fruit :

1 serving of fruit will be the size of your fist.

or 1 handful of smaller fruits like this:

Nuts :

Hands is also great to measure nuts serving:

I wish there were picture's of serving size for common Malaysian food such as noodles, rice noodle etc .. But I think I will update this entry in the future with my own picture.

Of course all these counting calories are just estimations and it wont be correct to the last digit, I doubt that it is correct to 2 digits too, that's why the reason why I give myself 100kcal or 10% margin of error. Eg if my Polar watch says I workout 1000kcal, I record it as 900 kcal. And if my estimated calories taken that day is 1500 I will record it as 1600. It wont be pinpoint accurate, but if you follow the rough guideline above, it should be fine and there is no need to be so obsessed with fine accurancy.

Great blog with picture of portion/ source of most of the picture above:

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