Portion Control – A Key to Fighting Childhood Obesity

One of the main problems in treating childhood obesity is the issue of “portion control.” This is not just a problem for children – many adults suffer from it, too. Good eating habits and the ability to control the quantity of food consumed are very important tools for preventing obesity in children.

Studies show that elementary school-aged children are unable to take the right amount of food from a serving bowl during meal time. They are much more influenced by the size of their plate rather than the understanding of how much they should eat according to their body size. Eating from a large (adult-sized) plate, can cause them to take too much food. Then, they eat too much and/or waste food. In order to deal with this problem, it is very important to plan the table setting: plates, cups, serving spoons and more. Also, parents need to decide in advance if the child is mature enough to take the right portion size or if a parent will serve food on the child’s plate.

We need to remember that we all eat with our eyes, so it is not easy to stop eating once the food is placed in front of us. In this situation, it is almost impossible to control the amount we eat. For precisely this reason, it is very important to teach children how to control the amount they eat, even if there is still food in front of them or on their plate.

With time and patience, it is possible to teach your child to eat the right amount of foods that will help keep him healthy.

One way of helping your kids control the amount that they eat and identify foods that are risky for “eating too much,” is by using the Habitz App. In Habitz, parents can set “custom goals” for each child. By creating a custom challenge, your child remembers to pay attention to the right portion of food and which foods can be problematic…every day.

Examples of goals you can set:

  • Limit pasta to a one cup serving (cooked) or take only one small bowl
  • Limit ice cream to one scoop
  • Eat snacks only from a small bowl
  • Eat one small bowl of cereal for breakfast
  • Eat only one slice of pizza at party
  • Only one dessert! No seconds!
  • Serve yourself 4 spoonfuls of rice
  • Up to 2 slices of bread per meal
  • Eat one small bar of chocolate per day

By using Habitz, you can identify potential problem foods and address eating issues by developing goals that suit your child. Your child learns healthy eating habits, earns rewards and has fun!

10 More Tips to Teach Your Child Appropriate Portion Control

 

  1. Small plate: It is important to adjust the size of the plate to fit the age/size of the child. Children should not eat from adult-sized plates. At all meals, everyone should eat from a plate suitable for their own size.
  2. Cereal : If your child is eating cereal, teach him to use a measuring cup (8oz.) and not just pour cereal directly into the bowl without control. Define in advance what the right amount is for your child, and teach him to serve himself just that amount with a measuring cup.
  3. Snacks: Snacks should be eaten from a small bowl, suitable for kids, and not directly from the store bag which is often very large. To prevent overeating, neither children nor adults should eat directly from the bag.
  4. At a party: Teach your kid to fill a plastic cup (8-9oz.) with snacks once. There will be many more temptations at the party, but at least you will teach him how to control snack portions.
  5. No Seconds: An important rule during mealtime is to not take extra or “seconds.” Parents provide the child with the appropriate amount of food, or if the child is older, he can serve himself. Decide in advance with your child that there are no seconds. If the child claims he is still hungry after eating his first serving, you can ensure that any additional food is only from vegetables or fish/meat, not from carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, pasta, etc.).
  6. Portion size of meat: Teach your child that the recommended portion of meat for him is about the size of the palm of his hand. This will help him understand more easily the correct quantity and how to control the quantity even when there is no adult there to assist him.
  7. At a restaurant: If the dish that your child ordered is too big for his size, ask the server to bring you an extra plate. You can place a suitable amount of food for your child on the extra plate and ask the server to put the rest of the dish in a “To Go” box.
  8. Salad dressing: Measure one tablespoon. Don’t pour the dressing directly from the bottle. This technique should be applied at home and when dining out. Use “light” dressing if possible, and try to stay away from dressings containing mayonnaise.
  9. Ketchup: The rule should be “one tablespoon per meal and no more than 2 tablespoons per day.”
  10. Popcorn in a theater: Bring small paper bags with you suitable for popcorn, and share the huge container that you buy between all the kids. This way, every child receives the appropriate portion for his size, and there will be no attack on the main container. (It is a good idea to serve this way from a hygienic point of view as well.)

Yael Dror is a Pediatric Nutritionist. She holds a Master’s degree in Physiology from Tel Aviv University and a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and most importantly, Yael is a mother of 3 active children.  Yael is a former professional athlete and is a co-founder of Habitz.