Do you know how much your kids are really eating? Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the portions our kids are eating are the right serving size for their nutritional needs. Portion sizes have increased drastically over the years, contributing to the rising childhood obesity rate.
Understanding healthy portions can be hard. Here’s why:
- Many of us don’t know what a healthy portion is.
- Restaurants offer extras like breads, chips and other appetizers that add extra calories, sodium and fat but lack any nutritional benefit.
- Some meals have portions that are enough for two or more people.
- Many convenience foods and drinks are priced lower but packaged in larger sizes to sell more.
Clearing Up the Confusion
Here are a couple of important definitions from the National Institutes of Health:
- Portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time, whether in a restaurant, from a package or in your own kitchen. A portion is 100 percent under our control.
- Serving Size is the amount of food listed on a product’s Nutrition Facts label. So all of the nutritional values you see on the label are for the serving size the manufacturer suggests on the package. Once we understand the difference, it’s easier to determine how much to serve and easier to teach kids the difference between the two.
How can we eat and serve smaller portions?
- When cooking at home: Offer the proper “serving” to each member of the family, then put the extra food away. Save leftovers for another meal.
- When dining out: Skip the appetizers and split a large salad or main dish with a friend.
- When ordering takeout at home: Eat one slice of pizza instead of two, and order a small instead of a medium to split among the family so the pieces are smaller.
- Watching movies at home or at the theatre: Don’t eat while watching TV or a movie or when you’re on the computer. It’s harder to control how much you’re eating if you don’t pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth, and when. At the movies, share a box of popcorn, and avoid the free-refill tubs and skip the candy.
- At snack time: Never eat straight from the bag or box. Measure out snacks, including fruits and veggies, into appropriate portion sizes before giving them to your kids.
You may be surprised to learn these are serving sizes:
1 slice of bread
½ cup rice or pasta (cooked)
1 small piece of fruit (super-large apples are 2+ servings)
1 wedge of melon
¾ cup fruit juice
=1 cup milk or yogurt
2 oz. cheese (about the size of a domino)
2-3 oz. meat, poultry or fish (this is about the size of a deck of cards)