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Portion Distortion

by Jo Ellen Shield, MED RD LD and Mary Mullen, MS RD

Portion Distortion

When kids follow the MyPlate recommendations for daily servings, they are well on their way to healthy eating and a healthy weight. Unfortunately, many kids today seem to be suffering from "portion distortion." When talking about what kids eat or drink, keep these definitions in mind:

  • Serving Size
    A serving is a specific amount of food or drink that is defined by common measurements, such as cups, ounces, or tablespoons. Examples include recommended servings from MyPlate (the amount kids should eat) and the serving size on a Nutrition Facts label, which is the basis for all the other nutrition information on the label. In many cases, the serving size listed on the Nutrition Facts label is different from the MyPlate recommended serving size. In fact, many of the MyPlate serving sizes are smaller than those listed on the Nutrition Facts label.
  • Portion Size
    A portion is basically the amount of food that happens to end up on the plate. Think of portion size as the actual amount of food kids choose to eat at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack. Portions can be bigger or smaller than the recommended serving size.

Visualizing Appropriate Portion Sizes

One reason kids may not be eating appropriately sized portions based on the recommended MyPlate serving sizes is that they may not recognize what a reasonable portion looks like. What does one-half cup of pasta look like? What about three ounces of chicken or two tablespoons of peanut butter?

The good news is that kids don't need a measuring cup or scale to measure the portions they should eat – instead, they can visualize them by using familiar objects, such as a tennis ball or CD, that are similar in size to recommended serving sizes. Before they eat or drink, they can think of the relevant object and choose a portion that matches its size.

Here are some tips to help you and your kids visualize portion sizes:

Picture This: How to Visualize Portion Sizes

Food Portion Size A Portion Is About the Size of..
Grains Group    
Bread 1 ounce or 1 regular slice CD cover
Dry cereal 1 ounce or 1 cup Baseball
Cooked cereal, rice or pasta 1 ounce or ½ cup ½ baseball
Pancake or waffle 1 ounce or 1 small (6 inches) CD
Bagel, hamburger bun 1 ounce or ½ piece  Hockey puck
Cornbread 1 piece Bar of soap

 

Fruits Group    
Orange, apple, pear 1 small (2½ inches in diameter) Tennis ball
Raisins ¼ cup Golf ball

 

Vegetables Group    
Baked potato 1 medium Computer mouse
Vegetables, chopped or salad 1 cup Baseball

 

Dairy Group    
Fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt 1 cup Baseball
Cheese 1½ ounces nature cheese or 2 ounces processed cheese 9-volt batter
Ice cream ½ cup ½ baseball

 

Protein Foods Group    
Lean beef or poultry 3 ounces Deck of cards
Grilled or baked fish 3 ounces Checkbook
Peanut butter 2 tablespoons Ping-pong ball

 

Oils Group    
Tub of margarine 1 teaspoon Standard postage stamp
Oil or salad dressing 1 teaspoon Standard cap on a 16-ounce water bottle
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About the authors:

Jo Ellen Shield MED RD LD

Jo Ellen Shield, MED RD LD

Jodie Shield (Jo Ellen Shield) is co-author of "Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens" from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, published by Eat Right Press, Chicago, iL. Visit Jodie's website at healthyeatingforfamilies.com.
Mary C Mullen MS RD

Mary Mullen, MS RD

Co-author of "Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens" from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, published by Eat Right Press, Chicago, iL. Visit Mary's website at healthyeatingforfamilies.com.

Topics


Themes


Themes

  • Cook healthy

    Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of all meals. Even a snack can be healthy.

  • Eat right

    Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day's experiences with one another.

  • Shop smart

    To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.


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