Kid-Size Food Portions Guide
By Bonnie Schiedel
Average User Rating:
Your toddler slurps down a vat of soda bigger than his head at the movies. Your 11-year-old eats three bites and then races off to resume building the world’s largest couch cushion fort. Your eight-year-old’s restaurant “kiddy meal” looks exactly the same size as your own. Sound familiar? Figuring out portion sizes and just how much your kids should be eating can be bewildering, but once you get the basics down it will become second nature. Plus, we asked three moms to do a reality check and plan a healthy balanced menu based on recommended servings from the USDA’s My Pyramid—and then see how it measured up to what their kids would actually eat. And, we threw in some kid-friendly recipes too! Here’s what you need to know to help your family make healthy eating choices.
Not sure about portion sizes? That’s probably because of changes in the recommendations. In other words, the stuff you learned in eighth-grade health class isn’t necessarily accurate anymore. In 2005, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an updated guide to nutrition called My Pyramid. It considers a variety of factors when making recommendations on how much of each food group you should be eating each day, so there’s no one-size-fits-all chart for kids. As well, My Pyramid takes fats and “discretionary calories” such as desserts and junk food into account.
So, what does this all mean for your child? It means that your child’s age, sex and activity level all play a part in determining what a healthy amount of food is. For example, a moderately active thirteen-year-old girl needs more food than a moderately active nine-year-old. Older kids need more calcium than younger kids. Boys generally need a couple hundred more calories a day than girls, assuming their activity levels are similar. And of course, an active kid (who gets 60 minutes or more of moderate and vigorous activity a day) requires more food than a child who gets between 30 and 60 minutes, or less than 30 minutes.
Let’s take a look at three different age groups. These recommendations are based on a child who gets 30 minutes of less of activity a day (in addition to the day’s regular routine, like walking down the hall at school). If your child is more active, visit http://www.mypyramid.gov/ to use its online calculator. And of course, always discuss significant changes in diet with your doctor.