Helping Kids Understand Portion Sizes

Many people incorrectly estimate food portion sizes. Portions that are too large can add hundreds of extra calories each day, leading to weight gain.

Portion size is commonly confused with serving size. A portion size refers to the amount of food that is actually consumed at one time, which can contain more or less than the recommended servings. A serving size is the recommended amount of food according to the nutritional facts label or generally accepted dietary guidelines for whole foods.

Kids don’t necessarily need a measuring cup or scale to measure the portions they should eat: they can visualize them by using familiar objects that are similar in size to recommended serving sizes. Doesn’t this sound like fun?

Here are a few models of everyday objects to help your child visualize the actual amount of food in some common portion sizes:

  • Lightbulb = ½ cup of cooked veggies
  • Cell phone = 3 oz. of meat
  • Computer mouse = ½ cup cooked rice or pasta
  • CD = 1 pancake
  • Yo-yo = 1 cookie
  • Baseball = 1 medium fruit such as an apple or an orange
  • Pair of dice = 1 ounce of cheese

Before your child eats or drinks, encourage them to think of familiar objects and choose a portion that best matches its size. For the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’s chart of recommended portion sizes, click here.

Here are five kid-approved healthy recipes to try at home:

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