Food Nutrition and Schoolage Children: Portion Sizes

In North America, obesity is becoming an increasingly important issue, as media attention has served to alert us to the dangers of our sedentary, fast-food-filled lifestyles. What has become of particular concern is the influence this kind of lifestyle has had on our children, as incidences of child obesity continue to rise at an alarming rate.

We know about the importance of exercise and good nutrition for our kids health, but there may be more to the issue than this. In addition to watching what your child is eating, it’s important to be aware of how much she is eating, as portion control is a central tenant of any healthy diet. Read on for more information on the importance of portion control, as well as lots of great healthy eating tips for kids.

Portion Control: Then and Now

It’s no wonder people need help with portion control sizes, as many have grown exponentially in the past couple of decades. Take a look at how these popular food items have expanded over the past twenty years:

20 Years Ago Today
  Portion Calories   Portion Calories
Bagel 3'' diameter 140 Bagel 6'' diameter 350
Cheeseburger 1 333 Cheeseburger 1 590
French Fries 2.4 ounces 210 French Fries 6.9 ounces 610
Soda 6.5 ounces 85 Soda 20 ounces 250
Orange Juice 1 cup 100 Orange Juice 2.2 cups 150

Portion Control Tips For Kids Healthy Eating

Thankfully, there are many ways in which you can reduce the portion sizes of your kids meals, while at the same time teaching them essential lessons about the importance of healthy eating.

  • Pay attention to serving sizes and nutrition facts labels. When you are purchasing food items, be sure to read the nutrition facts label, and keep the recommended servings sizes in mind during meal preparation. Although the amount listed on prepared foods is not necessarily the same as that recommended in the Food Pyramid Guide, they will give you a more standardized perspective of exactly how much you should be eating.

  • Use smaller plates when serving meals. Although we like to think we’re in control of how we fill our “hunger”, how much we eat has as much to do with psychology as it does with our bodies’ actual needs. In other words, if we have a small portion served to us on a larger plate, we will tend to think we’re not getting enough to eat. On the other hand, if we have a small – but full – plate, our meal looks much more substantial. This is an important concept to keep in mind with snack foods. Give your kids their chips in a small bowl, rather than let them have the whole bag.

  • Keep extra food off the table. When serving your family’s meals, try to keep pots and bowls of food off the table. If your kids actually have to get up from the table to have more food, they will be forced to think for a moment before taking seconds.

  • Don’t supersize. When eating out, be sure to be aware of the size of your kids’ meals. At restaurants, try to select from the kids’ menu, or encourage your family to share their entrees. Restaurant portions are often large enough to fill two – and sometimes three – people sufficiently. There’s never a need to ask for even larger portions. You may think you’re getting the best “deal”, but is risking your family’s health really worth it?

  • Don’t expect your kids to clean their plates. You may remember your parents encouraging you to finish your entire meal before getting up from the dinner table, but experts are now telling parents this may not be the best message to send your children. Not only do kids need less calories than adults, but studies show that young children do a better job of managing portion size when they're allowed to control the portions themselves.

  • Enjoy your meals. Make meal time a time to sit and spend time with your family, instead of allowing your children to mindlessly eat in front of the television, for example. This will force everyone to slow down, as well as give you an invaluable moment of quality time with your kids!

Finally, don’t forget to be an example to your children. If they see you continually getting up for seconds, chances are, they will continue that same behavior.