Adults Featured Healthy News Seniors — 15 April 2012
Portion Distortion

By: Jodie Shield, RD

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 Author

Jodie
Jodie

Jodie Shield, M.Ed., R.D., L.D.N. Jodie Shield has been a consultant and spokesperson in the field of nutrition for over two decades. A former national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (1989-1995), she has worked extensively with the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center and taught nutrition and medical dietetics at the University of Illinois. Currently she is a complemental faculty member of the College of Health Sciences in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at Rush University in Chicago.

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