Dieting Tips For Kids: Serving Size Control

Keep your kids healthy by preventing them from overeating; learn tips for limiting portion sizes.

When adults over-eat, we usually find a "good reason" for it. We have to make room for that delicious chocolate cake, or we've already paid for the giant serving of food placed before us and it would be a shame to see it go to waste. We pick up a bar of chocolate or whip up some down-home comfort food when we need emotional consolation.

Children however tend to eat only when they are hungry, and usually will stop when they are full. Until, that is, they pick up on the environmental cues adults are constantly throwing their way. By the time children hit kindergarten they might already be in the habit of eating for the sake of eating and not out of true hunger.

It is important that adults recognize this fact so they can work to counter it by establishing effortless yet effective means of portion control for their children. Otherwise, your child could start learning unhealthy eating patterns that can persist into adulthood and all the while they are harming their health by gaining excess weight. Use these portion control tips to start teaching your children about appropriate serving sizes.



1) What seems like average or even small portions to adults are really probably serving much to large for a child. If you have trouble knowing how much is enough, use this rule of thumb. Generally speaking, a person's stomach can hold about as much food as their fist can. That doesn't end up looking like much food when it is sitting on a huge dinner plate. So to automatically limit the amount you can serve at one time, use smaller utensils. Start using child sized plates or salad plates instead of giant restaurant sized dinner plates. That way, when you tell your child to eat everything on her plate before she can leave the table, she isn't eating triple the amount of food she really needs. The same goes for the size of your glasses. When the kids want soda or juice only allow them to have it in glasses 6 ounces or smaller. Water can still be served in 8 ounce glasses.

2) Of course, what do you do when you are at a restaurant that only uses giant, restaurant sized dinner plates? Usually kids can order off of a kiddie menu, but more often than not, an item from the kiddie menu is to a child's stomach what a plate of food from the normal menu is to an adult's stomach. In other words, it is still too big. Encourage children to get a meal that they can split with another sibling. If your kids can't agree on what they like, or if yours is an only child, ask the waiter to only bring out half of the normal portion and box up the other half for you to take home.

3) If you have too much food in the house you are bound to use more than you need. So think carefully about the portion size of each item of food that you intend to serve. If you only plan to let your family have a little bit, only buy a little bit. Bulk items seem like a better deal, but most of the time they aren't good for your health. So only buy in bulk those foods which you know you will eat a lot of before the next time you make it to the grocery store.

4) Serve dinner family style. That is, bring the food to the table in pots and pans and allow the children to spoon the food onto the plate themselves, under your guidance of course. They can start learning early how to serve appropriate portions to themselves.

Remember, portion control is not about putting children on a diet, it's about parents teaching children how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

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