Managing your eating habits can be a challenge, especially considering the mass of health and nutritional information — much of it conflicting — we’re presented with every day.
However, a new study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science today suggests we can take matters into our own hands. Quite literally.
A research team from the University of Sydney, led by dietitian and PhD student Alice Gibson, has developed a quick, easy and accurate method for measuring food portion sizes — something that’s particularly tricky when you’re not dining at home.
It doesn’t involve hauling around a measuring tape or a mini set of scales when you go out for a meal. In fact, all it requires is your fingers.
Image: University of Sydney
As you'll see in the video above, finger width can be used as a "ruler" to determine the size and dimensions of foods and liquids.
When combined with geometric formulas of volume and food density factors, these measurements provided an estimate for the weight of the item.
It's dead simple, but the study revealed this technique was a more accurate way of estimating portion sizes than household measures like cups and spoons, and size descriptions like small, medium and large.
And, if you've ever made an effort to keep an eye on your meal sizes, you'll probably agree it'd be a lot less fiddly as well.
Alice Gibson she was motivated to explore easier ways of measuring food when she kept a week-long food diary as part of a clinical weight loss study she's involved in. (Post continues after gallery.)
"It made me realise just how difficult [portion management] is when you're out at a restaurant, for example. You don't have scales like you do at home, or cups or things like that to help you accurately estimate what you're eating," she tells Mamamia.
"Usually we'd rely on subjective things like small, medium or large, or we'd try to visually squeeze it into a cup in our mind. So I thought, 'There's got to be a more objective way to do this'."
Let's face it — our judgement of what constitutes a regular-sized meal or portion tends to become a bit skewed when we're dining out... especially when wine is involved. Being able to quickly assess this with a hand or finger could be a game changer.
"We can be bombarded with information about what sort of foods we should be eating, but a lot of the time it really comes down to how much we're eating, particularly with energy-dense nutrient poor food or traditional junk foods," Gibson continues.
"If we're trying to limit them in our diet we need to be able to know how much of it we're having."
The measure would be particularly useful for people trying to maintain their weight and accurately monitor their energy intake, something that's often easier said than done.
"If the way they're estimating their portions is 50 per cent wrong, they could be having an additional 50 per cent of calories they don't know they're consuming," Gibson says.
The research has generated substantial buzz today, and we're not the only ones impressed. Gibson was recently presented with the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) President’s Award for Innovation in recognition of her 'finger width' tool.
Alice Gibson. Image: University of Sydney
While the technique is simple on its down, translating it into usable information requires a rather complicated calculation process.
Ultimately, Gibson hopes it'll be accompanied by a smartphone application that'll automatically do all the number crunching.
"We need to take the next step for it to be available to people on the go. People need real time feedback because they're not going to sit there and do all the maths themselves, as fun as that is," she laughs.
Well, this gives a whole new meaning to finger food. Anything that makes healthy eating simpler can only be a good thing.
Would you use this method?
Featured image: iStock