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Friday, September 26, 2014

Healthy Eating: the Importance of Portion Control for Children


Healthy Eating: the Importance of Portion Control for Children
The statistics for childhood obesity are scary. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that we are now living in a generation where parents are going to out live their children due to childhood obesity. According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2010.  In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. We have to face it: we are killing our kids with food.

As parents we want to make sure our children have everything they need.  When our children love a certain kind of food we encourage them to eat more. A lot of our love is put into the food we provide our kids. It makes us happy to have our children eat food with enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, this may not be so good for their health. We are now learning that not all foods are made a like. Just eating anything is not necessarily better than not eating at all. In fact, it is really important to introduce our kids to a variety of foods and to eating a balanced meal.

This can seem overwhelming when the images our children see on TV, on billboards and the web are of foods that are high in calories, fat, sugar and salt.  We also live in a super-sized world with super-sized portions encouraging our children to eat big quantities of food. It is hard to know what the right amounts of food are, and what really makes up a balanced meal.

There are some easy steps we can take to help get control of our children’s serving sizes. Here are 6 tips to help:

1. Realize there is a difference between a portion and a serving size. When we are served a plate of food we tend to think of it as a serving but it can actually be made up of a number of servings. What we have been served is a portion. A serving is a specific measured amount recommended by the USDA for us to eat of a specific food. It is all about how many calories we burn during the day and what we need to eat to fuel our body and keep it healthy.

2. Kids do not need to eat as much as adults do. As parents we tend to think that because our children are growing they need to even eat more than we do. Not true. In fact, kids are burning less calories than they used too because they are not as physically active. They are also smaller than we are. They deserve plates and servings right-sized for them.

3. Cook more meals at home and include your kids in the process. When we cook at home we have much more control over the food we eat and how much is served. By including our kids in preparing a meal we are getting them to interact with the food they eat. This makes them more willing to try new things.

4. Be a role model. The biggest influence in how our children eat and the amounts they eat is what they see us as parents doing. Eating right-sized servings and the right variety of foods starts with us. Living a healthy lifestyle is a family affair and good for everyone.

5. Invest in some easy tools to help you with learning about and preparing balanced meals and serving up right-sized portions for your kids. Eating healthy is a journey that we want to become a way of life. We need to learn about healthy eating and practice living a healthy lifestyle everyday. Think about reading a book to your kids that teaches them about a balanced meal like Sammie and Sax in the Land of Quinoa: The Search for a Balanced Meal. Buy plates that are right-sized and have serving sizes built into them like those offered from Kidliga. Choose some fun activities for your kids that reinforce the learning like a Sammie and Sax Balanced Meal puzzle, or fun mazes and coloring pages that you can find for free online. Then think about choosing kid-friendly recipes that your children will enjoy helping to prepare as well as eat.  There are healthy children’s cookbooks you can get or you can find kid-friendly recipes for free online and make your own cookbook of family favorites.

6. Access Free Resources online and locally. There are more and more great websites to help parents with ideas, recipes and activities to help engage our kids in healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle.  Here are my favorites:




Supporting our kids in eating and living healthy is the greatest gift we can give them. Use these tips to help make the journey a little easier and more fun.

Enjoy! And Live Vibrant!