The Side-Plate Diet: New Research On Portion Sizes

Hello friends

As many of you know, I am a keen proponent of losing weight, or keeping weight off, by controlling your portion sizes. You eat normally (though healthily) but use smaller plates to impose control over your food intake. This has worked extraordinarily well for me. I started doing The Side Plate Diet about eleven months ago and it has transformed by body and my relationship to eating.

The BMJ this week reports that

~ Theresa Marteau from the University of Cambridge and colleagues recently published a Cochrane review that found the “most conclusive evidence to date” that people consume more food or drinks from larger size portions or packages, and when using larger items of tableware.

Additionally, they say that reducing portion sizes may mean going back to the noticeably smaller tableware which was being used in the 1950s, and suggest that one change which could make a difference would be,

 ~ Designing tableware to encourage smaller mouthfuls, such as, shallow plates, straight sided glasses, cutlery.

My views and information on plate sizes, if you want to read more, are here. And if you are worried about your weight and would like to try The Side Plate Diet, use the search bar at the right of the blog, and have a look at this.

This new research has some great suggestions and is taking a very sensible and longer-term view about reducing over-consumption and preventing obesity. The most recent statistics showing the problem in the UK of childhood obesity are, frankly, alarming.

The possibility of a new sugar-tax being implemented is also currently at the top of the agenda here, but we have a long way to go.

side plate diet

Using smaller plates is a very easy approach to dieting. It works.

Please share the buzz ~

Annie Bee x

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New Research On The Importance Of Portion Sizes

Some of the news headlines today about a new piece of research (which is in fact a round up of 61 previous studies) are,

 ~ Portion size key in tackling obesity, says study

 ~ Growing portion sizes a major factor in rising UK obesity, study finds

 ~ End to supersizing could reverse obesity trend

 ~ Want To Lose Weight? Buy Smaller Plates!

The Cambridge University led team of researchers says that by simply replacing large sizes of foods and drinks with standard amounts, British consumers could reduce overall calorie intake by up to 16 per cent. Over a year, that could result in weight loss of around two stone. If American adults did the same, they could reduce their intake by 22%-29%.

One of the ways of achieving this, the authors say, is by shifting away from a culture of large dinner plates, wine glasses and “supersize” portions. They found that people offered portions of food or crockery in larger sizes “consistently” consumed more of what they were given.

Add to this the well-documented evidence that portion sizes of packaged foods have increased substantially, and you have a recipe for trouble. My blog post The Side Plate Diet: Portion Distortion from earlier this year cites a number of pieces of research on the subject.

side plate diet portion distortion

Of today’s news, Dr Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “This study clearly demonstrates that reducing portion sizes is a successful way to cut calories. Given that almost two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, it’s important to keep an eye on portion sizes when cooking, shopping and eating out to avoid overeating and help maintain a healthy weight.” You can find the full research on the Cochrane Library webiste.

Well you could always try my simple solution, which is to eat all your meals off a side plate. How small will it need to be? Have a read of my Side Plate blog post.

It has worked for me  ~ I am a very healthy weight and I am eating perfectly normal, healthy food; in addition, I am avoiding adding a layer of what I regard as complication, such as calorie counting, fasting, or the cutting out of one food group (for example carbs).

Give it a go. I can highly recommend it. And please share the buzz!

side plate diet

side plate diet

Annie Bee x

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You Cannot Get Fat Without Eating Too Much

happy Sunday

Sundays can be a bit of a mixed bag really. They can be slow and without purpose. They can be full of dread for the week ahead. They can be a day of dashed hope ~ you plan for brunch in the garden and it turns out to be cold and wet as it is here in the ‘burbs today (many degrees below the July norm).

They can also be a day of resolution, particularly when it comes to fitness, health, dieting and wellbeing. All diets start on a Monday – every woman knows that and those decisions for a NEW YOU tend to be formulated on a Sunday. You resolve to change your attitude to all sorts of things on a Sunday – how tidy you keep the kitchen, cooking pancakes from scratch instead of buying them pre-packaged, building a new veg patch in a sunny bit of the garden. But surely more than anything else, losing weight.

One of the most sensible and interesting exponents of diet and health in the UK is Susan Jebb OBE, who is a nutrition scientist, and the Professor of Diet and Population Health at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford; she is also the UK Government’s advisor on obesity. Her many years of research on human metabolism has proved without a doubt that you

………. cannot get fat without eating too much .

Metabolism is a bit of a red herring in her view and energy intake is KEY: she says that ultimately, obesity is about food intake. Other factors (physical exercise, metabolism etc.) play a relatively small role.

If you are thinking about your weight, diet and health this Sunday I urge you to have a look at my previous posts on the side plate diet (see the Search Buzz Subjects bar on the right) and follow my instagram posts (Annie Bee on instagram ) which will help to show how easy it is to follow.

Side Plate Diet breakfast

Side Plate Diet lunch pic

Hope you are having a pleasant and fruitful Sunday.

Annie Bee x

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The Side -Plate Diet ~ What To Do On Holiday

Hello from Sri Lanka !

I am in an odd situation whereby I am away from home for the best part of six weeks. This is due to a once-only opportunity to visit my family in Australia, nip across to NZ where I was born and brought up (but left for the UK in 1977), pick up one of the Baby Bees after her year abroad and then meet up with the rest of the Bees for our 2 week annual summer holiday.

Having started The Side- Plate Diet on January 6th, I had slimmed down considerably during the 6 months before my travels began. Would it be easy to stick to it while away? Well, it has been a mixed bag.

Eating with my family while abroad has been easy: they understood I was watching portion-sizes. Self-catering motels were also simple and when eating out, I would just have a starter –  sometimes with a treat of a side of fries. I have not wanted to be massively strict on the odd occasion when a lovely meal out with family and friends was on the cards. Not feeling guilty and getting back on track is the best plan.

The biggest problem has been the buffet meals at the 2 hotels we have stayed at here in Sri Lanka. You would have to have an iron will not to want to try lots of the wonderful foods on offer, particularly when they are in a new cuisine  (Sri Lankan cuisine has influences from colonial powers, foreign traders and Southern India. Key ingredients are rice, coconut and spices, reflecting the island’s history as a spice producer and trading post over several centuries) and you are here for the total holiday experience ~ food included. The hotel we are in now has a superb chef who, knowing I have Coeliac Disease, keeps making me special plates of the most amazing concoctions. For breakfast this morning, for example, he presented me with rice flour pancakes with a filling of chopped banana and desiccated coconut + honey paste. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. My intention to just have a small plate of fresh pineapple with a small serving of yoghurt was nowhere to be seen.


healthy buffet


Buffets are essentially tables laden with food, most of which one wants to try, and there can’t be many people who don’t find themselves over-doing it, given the self-service nature of the beast. The term buffet originally referred to the French sideboard furniture where the food was served, but eventually became applied to the serving format. It also used to be an opportunity to show off one’s wealth (both with the food and the vessels in which it was presented) and it is, at this hotel anyway, a chance for the chef and his kitchen staff to really show off their considerable skills.

The Buffet (Jean-Louis Forain) 1884

The Buffet (Jean-Louis Forain) 1884

I am not proud to admit as well that there is also an element of “all you can eat for the set price”…. let’s pig out while we have the chance and we aren’t eating/paying a la carte. Sad, I know.


So there is no doubt that for at least 2 of the 6 weeks I am away from home, I will be eating more calories than I had been doing. I guess the trick is to try and compensate (tomorrow is another day), love the freedom of being on holiday, not worry about a few pounds going on, and know that when back home, this morning’s breakfast will be the stuff of dreams.

Annie Bee x

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To Weigh Or Not To Weigh?

I was listening last week to Clare Balding on R4’s Woman’s Hour chatting about the Oxford and Cambridge Women’s Boat Race. This year it took place on the Thames for the first time ever, and occurred on the same day (Saturday 11th April) as the men’s.  What interested me was that Clare Balding had been along to the weigh-in and was pointing out that while the rowers are all quite small women, they do weigh a fair amount. They are small, lean and full of muscle.

Ox and Camb weigh in

This reminded me of a diet and fitness statement one often hears bandied about: a pound of muscle weighs more than a pound of fat. Well, no. They weigh the same. But the point (which is correct) is that muscle is about 18% more dense than fat and one pound of muscle occupies less space (volume) than one pound of fat.

These pictures illustrate the point.

Muscle V Fat

same weight pic

Some people weigh themselves every day, and there is research to show that they do in fact lose the most weight. The research was published in 2014 in the online publication PLOS One (you can access it here Although a relatively small number of people took part (40) there are two or three other studies which show much the same thing.

I NEVER weigh myself. I did get super slim aged about 20 and enjoyed jumping on scales as often as possible, but the more I weigh, the less happy I am to know the truth. When I am forced onto the scales (perhaps at the hospital or by the GP), thankfully very rarely, I look off into the middle distance with a thoughtful, intelligent look in my eye and pray I am not going to get a lecture from the health professional. Often it is in kgs anyway, which is complete gobbledy-gook to me.


I have lost weight recently (see posts on the Side Plate Diet) but am still going nowhere near the scales. For me it is all about how I feel, how I look, and how my clothes are fitting. Also how much muscle I have – the aim is to be lean and fit. Bring it on.

Let me know if you weigh yourself, how often, and whether it is motivating – does it make or break your day? Do you calculate your BMI? Or do you have your body fat percentage measured?  I am not sure I am brave enough to face those body fat calipers just yet, but you never know.


Annie Bee x

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The Nightmare Cycle of Diet Loss and Regain

Hello again

Put your hand up if you have been on a successful diet and NOT put at least some of the weight back on? Put your hand up if you put it all back on and then some. Are you confused about the very latest thing we are all supposed to be giving up? (Sugar seems to be the most recent baddy, but it is sometimes hard to keep up). Studies show that between 50% and 80% of dieters will put all their lost weight back on and some may well find they are heavier than they were when they first started the diet. How incredibly depressing.

In April 2007, UCLA research in American Psychologist, (the journal of the American Psychological Association) concluded that, “you can initially lose 5 to 10 percent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back”.

Traci Mann, UCLA Associate Professor of Psychology and lead author of the study, conducted the most comprehensive and rigorous analysis of diet studies by analysing 31 long-term pieces of research.

“What happens to people on diets in the long run?” Mann asked. “Would they have been better off to not go on a diet at all? We decided to dig up and analyse every study that followed people on diets for two to five years. We concluded most of them would have been better off not going on the diet at all. Their weight would be pretty much the same, and their bodies would not suffer the wear and tear from losing weight and gaining it all back.”

“We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more. Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants, while complete weight regain was found in the majority. Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people.”

Traci Mann

So where does that leave us? Depressed? Unmotivated? Confused? Turning to the nearest donut?

diet pic 2

Diets are a very personal choice – there is probably one to suit everybody’s preferences and lifestyles. For some people, five small meals per day works best; the 5:2 diet (fasting for 2 days of every 7) suits others.  Some enjoy counting calories, others hate it. What seems indisputable is we have to conquer how to make them work in the long run. Many dieters relax after initial weight loss and then the diet slips. Or results are too slow and people become unmotivated.

diet pic 3

We all feel better at an optimum weight so we need to remind ourselves of that: it is easier to move around, easier to run for the bus, our joints don’t suffer, we feel more attractive and (perhaps counter-intuitively) we seem to have more energy. So where do we find this extra motivation? Sadly I don’t have the magic answer – I wish I did.

There is a book called ‘Mindless Eating’ by Brian Wansink which has some interesting information on the psychology of overeating and how we make decisions about the food we eat. He has done some research into the correlation between the size of bowl/plate and the amount of food people subsequently help themselves to. If you have read my previous blogs on the Side Plate Diet you will know that I am a convert to eating off three (occasionally four) 7 inch plates a day. It works for me, but I realise it won’t suit everyone.

If you missed the pieces, use these links below and I would love to hear from you.

diet pic

Annie Bee x

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The Side-Plate Diet: Breakfasts

In previous posts I have talked generally about the Side-Plate Diet and the business of which side plate  to use (size matters) and how many – I am currently on 3 a day but once or twice a week add another (albeit with an apple and a small handful of nuts on it, so still nice and healthy).

So now for the nitty-gritty of what to actually put on the side-plates during the day so that you are optimally healthy but losing weight.

The beauty of this diet is that you are essentially eating perfectly normal food, you are just constraining the amount by imposing strict portion control. Get your 3 (or 4) plates out first thing in the morning and take pictures of each meal as you go along. Remember, there is evidence to show that by keeping a diary of your food intake, you will increase the likelihood of weight loss. The best way I have found is taking snaps on my phone. If you have got a diet-buddy, send them to him or her, or indeed send them to me.

Let’s start with breakfast: Once you begin the Side-Plate Diet, you will definitely be nice and hungry by the time breakfast comes around. The question of whether breakfast is the most important meal of the day now appears to be moot (have a read of this information from the NHS: ) but I LOVE breakfast, so here are half a dozen suggestions for brekkies which fit nicely on a side-plate and should keep you going until lunch.

1. Half a bagel with low-fat cream cheese and smoked salmon. This is probably more of a once-a-week treat, or brunch out with friends.

smoked salmon on bagel

2. One poached egg on a bed of spinach


3.My go-to, quick and easy breakfast choice: Bircher Muesli or normal healthy cereal with honey, berries and seeds or nuts on top. Use a dipping bowl or small teacup for this. I recommend using oats (in my case I am extremely lucky to be a coeliac who can tolerate gluten free oats) as they contain slow release energy. These pictures below show the layers of food I put in my dipping bowl which, by the way, is 4.25 inches across at the top. Almond-milk soaked oats + pomegranate seeds + raspberries + blueberries + topped with flaked almonds.

breakfast 1

breakfast 2

breakfast 3

breakfast 4

breakfast 5

4. One slice of wholemeal toast with enough baked beans to cover. (Don’t overload)


5. Low fat Greek Yoghurt (which has twice as much protein as regular yoghurt) topped with berries, a few toasted almonds and some seeds.

greek yoghurt

6. One slice of wholemeal toast with peanut butter or jam or honey on.

toast on side-plate

You can see in that photo that I have the plates out ready for the day ahead. I think I can see four. By the way, I very rarely drink juice or smoothies, but if you do want to, on the Side-Plate Diet, make sure it is in a small glass (see below). Even something as healthy as a freshly made fruit or vegetable juice smoothie needs to have portion control imposed on it.

smoothie pic

The thing to remember though is this: whatever you normally have for breakfast, as long as it isn’t a Mars Bar, or a bowl of Ben and Jerry’s, if you put it onto a side-plate or into a dipping bowl, you are most likely cutting down on your calorie intake. You will lose weight on this diet if you stick to this imposed portion control. However, nobody wants to feel faint or weak from lack of food, so you may need to adjust the number of side-plates you use. There are lots of variables: your metabolism, the amount of exercise you take and your age being the three most obvious. I definitely don’t need the amount of food I used to eat in my 30s and 40s. It has taken me a while to accept that, but there we are.

Also, don’t eat between the side-plate meals under any circumstances. Not so much as one grape!

This diet works!

Good luck and watch out for some lunch ideas coming soon.

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Annie Bee x

More pics of healthy breakfast ideas here: