Quick Guide to Kids' Portion Sizes

Build a Balanced Meal Using MyPlate. Learn More: https://www.myplate.gov/
Build a Balanced Meal Using MyPlate. Learn More: https://www.myplate.gov/

Offering a balanced diet of different foods helps to ensure that your child will receive the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Food groups are important in a balanced meal plan. The food groups are: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy or dairy alternatives, and healthy fats. I like to add in one additional food group - play foods! Play foods are also knows as fun foods or discretionary calories, and typically consist of sweets, chips, and other treats. In a healthy, balanced diet all foods fit - play foods. In my private practice, I teach that there are no "good foods" or "bad foods." Labeling foods as good or bad implies that food has morality, and it doesn't. Eating a piece of chocolate doesn't make you "bad." Nor does eating a piece of lettuce make you "good." Food does not define our morality, so let's ditch the labels and stop acting like it does.

While conventional feeding wisdom has taught us to limit or restrict sweets and treats, research over the best 3-4 decades has taught us that food restriction actually backfires.

Portion Sizes for Kids

The more food groups included in a meal, the better chance of getting an optimal variety of nutrients. A common question that I receive from clients is: how much of each food group do I serve?

Children should learn about portion sizes at family meals, but should also be allowed to eat to satisfy their appetite. Starter portions can satisfy both of these goals. Starter portions are age-appropriate portion sizes. They help your child understand how much food to eat, with the understanding that more food is okay to have if he or she is hungry. As kids grow, the starter portions change.

Download my Start Portion quick guide to learn what starter portions are for each age group. Keep this handy in your kitchen for a quick reference!

Kids Portion Sizes
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