How to Set Food Portion Sizes for Young Children

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  • 5/14/11
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    How much should a young child eat? Parents worry that they are not choosing the right kinds and amounts of food for kids, and they often believe their children are not taking in enough calories. Remember that toddlers are busy becoming independent people, and this urge for independence extends to the foods they consume. Young children want to explore the world, and as a result, they are not always interested in eating. It is natural for parents to worry about the amount of food their young children are consuming, but determining food portions does not have to be a source of anxiety.

    1. Remember that the high speed of growth babies experience during their first year will slow during the next two years. Do not be surprised if this decrease in the rate of growth is reflected in a smaller appetite. Kids aged one to three require between 1,000 and 1,300 calories a day.

    2. A small child’s stomach is roughly the size of his or her fist. Do not offer too much food at one time, or they may reject it. Offer food of different types (vegetable, meat, starch) one tablespoon at a time. An average toddler’s serving size should be about one-quarter of an adult’s serving size.

    3. Children under five should be offered three to five servings of vegetables a day. Plan on one tablespoon of vegetables for each year of the child’s age. A three-year-old should be eating three tablespoons of vegetables three to five times a day.

    4. Be creative when you’re setting out food for kids. Fashion pieces of fruit and cooked vegetables into interesting shapes. Cream cheese, cottage cheese or yogurt dips make vegetables more palatable to young eaters. If your child likes smoothies, take the opportunity to mix fruit, milk, honey, yogurt and wheat germ together in a healthy drink.

    5. Remember to choose foods that pack a lot of nutrients. Some nutrient-rich foods include poultry, eggs, yogurt, cheese, squash, brown rice and peanut butter. Your young eater will get a lot of nutrition out of even small quantities of these foods. Toddlers are active, and since they are always on the go, they will not spare much time for eating.

    6. Do not be alarmed if your toddler eats a lot one day and virtually nothing the next. Your job is to offer nutritious foods prepared in a healthy manner. Young children will eat what they need if it is made available to them.

    7. Do not try to force a child to clean his or her plate. Do not reward good behavior with sweets, and be sparing with the fruit juice, which is packed with sugar. Teach your child that drinking water is healthy. Discourage eating while watching TV. Remember that you control the types of food that come into your house, not your child.

    Questions:

    1.  How do you set food portion sizes for your children?

    Image Credit: Matt Preston
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