Written by Parker Ackerman, Nutrition Counselor at Camp Shane Texas
Bagels the size of frisbees, pizza slices that are bigger than our faces, and bowls of pasta so deep that our forks can barely find the bottom! It’s no surprise that the waistlines of kids and adults have expanded over the last few years. Of course, part of the problem is that foods consumed today are high in saturated fat, sugar, and sodium – and contain little to no nutrients. Yet there are a multitude of factors that contribute to this problem – and quantity plays as much a role as quality.
Picture your child’s favorite meal… now picture it 75% smaller. Would your child be a happy customer with this smaller serving? It’s not difficult to understand why the food industry serves more food than necessary: Americans love to feel that they’re getting their money’s worth. This is why it’s crucial to take responsibility for you and your child’s portions and to teach kids about the health values of portion control.
Here are some helpful tips to control portion sizes:
- Serve food on smaller plates to make the quantity of food look larger. Serve a sandwich on an appetizer plate rather than a dinner plate.
- When cooking large quantities of food or storing leftovers, separate the food into smaller more controlled portions before storing.
- Avoid letting kids eat out of their original containers – nobody should ever eat directly from a large bag of chips or container of ice cream. People are less likely to overeat when served individual portions.
- Pre-portion meals at the counter to avoid bringing the whole pot or plate to the table. This decreases temptation for seconds since food will not be at arm’s reach. If seconds are wanted, always go for the veggies first.
- Purchase single-serving size snacks to help your kids learn proper portion sizes.
- Avoid skipped meals. Aim for three healthy meals and two snacks throughout the day to avoid overeating at some meals.
- Add salad or fruit to the start of a meal to help control hunger and control caloric intake.
- Don’t rush through meals. Eat slowly and allow about 20 minutes before going for seconds. This will allow you to identify whether or not you are actually hungry.
- Since restaurant portions may be two, three, or even more times the recommended serving size – try sharing meals, ordering an appetizer as a main dish, ordering a child size meal, or asking for a to-go box and taking half of the meal home.
You should always avoid serving children large portions and expecting them to finish everything on their plate. Children need less food than adults. Interestingly enough, studies have confirmed that preschoolers do a better job controlling portion size when allowed to serve themselves.
The Camp Shane Team