Portion Sizes Both Parents and Kids Can Understand

Understanding serving sizes can be challenging, especially when you try to determine the right portions for kids. The suggested servings you find displayed on the Nutrition Facts labels of food containers are measured for adults only. Appropriate portion sizes for children also vary between different age groups.

Serving Sizes Can Easily Be Measured
By Using Everyday Items

Here are some handy guidelines that are easy to remember. The following measurements are right for children 6 years and older. Offer smaller servings to preschoolers (2-5 year old).

(1) One cup of cooked pasta or rice equals roughly the size of a tennis ball.
(2) A cup of fruit is about as big as a baseball.
(3) 1.5 ounces of hard cheese are as large as three dominos.
(4) One pancake, waffle or tortilla should be no bigger than a compact disc.
(5) Two tablespoons of salad dressing fill a ping pong ball.
(6) Three ounces of meat, poultry or fish are about the size of a deck of cards.
(7) A medium-sized potato is as big (or small) as a computer mouse.

These, of course, are only a few random samples. In similar fashion, you can use the size of a baseball to measure serving sizes for cereal, popcorn and most vegetable dishes. The size of a deck of cards is also appropriate for poultry, fish and meat servings. Hockey pucks are good for measuring biscuits and other pastries. For nuts, limit serving sizes to golf- or ping pong balls. Tennis balls are about right for beans and legumes. Compact discs equal roughly the right size of pancakes, waffles and tortillas. Cookies and sweets should be limited to something smaller than what we have among our samples shown above.

If your kids are physically active or play sports on a regular basis, they may burn off a higher amount of calories than they would with a sedentary lifestyle. However, if your children develop weight problems, you may want to monitor more closely their food intake and, if necessary, cut back gradually.

It is not advisable to put young children on a diet for weight loss. Calorie restrictions, including calories from fat, can be downright harmful for children under the age of two. Often a growth spurt can let kids outgrow a little extra weight as well.

Don’t ever use food as reward or punishment. Besides three nutritious meals a day, you can serve a light afternoon snack. Do resist, however, the temptation of letting your kids munch throughout the day. Treats must be possible every now and then, but they should be limited to special occasions.

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