Since the 1980s, food portions have increased drastically, so much that the average person has trouble determining proper portion size. Children, too, are suffering. According to the Center for Chronic Diseases Prevention and Health Promotion, childhood obesity has tripled over the past 30 years. With portion sizes growing and children being served adult-sized meals, weight gain is almost inevitable. By using standard meal portions, children are more likely to develop healthy eating habits.
Food Guide Pyramid
A visually appealing way to teach children about food portions is through using the food guide pyramid. In 2005, the food guide pyramid was altered in order to help children better understand food portions. Consisting of vertical stripes and five colours representing the different food groups, the food guide pyramid is used to show the recommended daily amount of foods that should be eaten every day. Unlike the old horizontal pyramid, the vertical pyramid is intended to show that while an apple is a healthy fruit, and would be at the wide bottom area of the "red" or fruit section, apple pie is loaded with sugar and oils, and therefore would be listed in the narrow top area of the fruit section. The colour orange on the food guide pyramid represents grains, red represents fruits, blue represents milk and dairy products, purple represents proteins such as fish, meat, nuts and beans, and yellow represents fats and oils. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the amount each person eats depends on activity levels and other aspects. Through MyPyramid.gov, individuals may use the interactive tool to create a personal eating plan.
Choosing Food Portions
Parents often dish out portions for children that are two times, or more, the size of a recommended serving. Despite this, children are pressured to "clear their plates." Unfortunately, this may lead to overeating, especially when portions are adult-sized. Not only is this unhealthy in itself but it may also lead to negative eating habits later in life, such as ignoring the body's natural responses to feeling full. When a child consistently sees large portions on his plate at the dinner table, he may begin to associate this with the "correct" portion sizes. Learning proper portion sizes will help you gauge how to properly feed your child without overfeeding.
Individuals who overeat increase their chance of health problems such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol, as well as bone problems. In order to teach your child to control his portion size, divide his plate into four different sections, filling one section with whole grains, the second with fruits, the third with vegetables and the last with proteins. Food may also be served on smaller plates in order to give the appearance of larger amounts of food. When providing children with snacks, divide them into containers in order to create one serving. This way, instead of eating out of the bag without thinking about how much they're consuming, they'll eat a sensible amount. Avoid eating in a hurry and instead, sit down for your meals. Between bites, set your eating utensil down. Provide 15 minutes after eating to let the food settle before providing seconds.
Teaching Portion Size
Children usually learn best through hands-on, interactive activities as opposed to being lectured for hours on end. Teach a child about portion sizes by comparing serving amounts to everyday objects. For example, one serving of rice is about the same size as one scoop of ice cream. One serving of potatoes is about the size of a yo-yo. A serving size of meat is approximately the equivalent of the size of a deck of cards. Using small activities like these will help a child better understand how much he is eating compared to what is recommended for a healthy lifestyle.
- Kids Health: The Food Guide Pyramid
- Keep Kids Healthy: Kids Food Guide Pyramid
- Science Daily: How Are Children Choosing Their Food Portions
- Kids Health: Keeping Portions Under Control
- MSNBC: Using Yo-Yos to Teach Kids About Food Portions
- Center for Chronic Diseases Prevention and Health Promotion: Childhood Obesity