The Norman Transcript

April 3, 2013

Watching portion sizes with food encourages good health

By Brenda Hill
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — When nutrition experts encourage us to watch the portion sizes, they mean everyone — including the kids.

A key to maintaining a healthy weight is balancing how much you eat and how much you move. Considering that the obesity rate for preschoolers has more than doubled in the last four decades, it is clear something is out of whack.

One factor contributing to that trend is large portions. Those too ample serving sizes we enjoy at restaurants, seek out in grocery store shelves and freezers and pile on oversized dinnerware have become the norm.

Researchers have found that children eat about 25 percent more when served a larger portion. Adults have been found to eat 50 to 70 percent more.

Although the Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages us to enjoy our food but eat less and to avoid oversized portions, it appears that is easier said than done. Part of the problem is we all tend to eat with our eyes.

Complicating matters is the multiple environmental cues — for example, the size of the plates, bowls, cups and utensils — that can trigger overeating. Try using an 8-inch plate for kids and a 10-12-inch plate for adults.

Another helpful hint is to use smaller serving utensils and avoid overfilling serving bowls and platters. Also, start preparing, serving and eating smaller portions, while paying attention to whether you actually feel full.

Children are much better than adults at feeling and following their bodies’ cues for fullness. Overfeeding or forcing kids to eat when they are not hungry can minimize their ability to do that.

Additionally, following MyPlate recommendations on serving sizes ensures everyone gets the right amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. For preschoolers, a good rule of thumb is to serve one tablespoon per year of age of each type of food.

Adults, school-aged children and preschoolers all need the same foods and nutrients for good health. However, each group needs them in different quantities. And, of course, within each group, the amount of food needed by an individual will vary depending on that person’s activity level. Smaller tummies need smaller portions.

It is essential for parents and caregivers to provide children with healthy food in age-appropriate portions at regularly scheduled meals and snacks. Then let the kids decide how much they want to eat.

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