Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

Nutritional Serving Sizes: What Parents Should Know

As parents, it can be challenging to teach our young athletes about proper nutrition and serving sizes, especially when unhealthy food options are readily available. In this article, we will explore five essential facts that will help educate your child about nutritional serving sizes.

We Live in a World of Portion Distortion

Over the last few decades, portion sizes have dramatically increased, leading to what experts call “portion distortion.” For example, in 1950, a normal serving of soda was only seven ounces, but today, it has ballooned to a whopping 42 ounces. Returning to smaller portion sizes could potentially combat issues like childhood obesity.

Kids Don’t Always Understand Fullness Cues

Studies have shown that children often struggle to recognize when they feel full, particularly when it comes to calorie-dense foods like macaroni and cheese. The amount of food you serve your child plays a significant role in how much they eat. As a parent, you have the responsibility to choose appropriate serving sizes for your young athlete.

Teach a Few Portion Control Options

One effective way to teach serving sizes is by using your child’s hand as a measuring tool. As they grow, their portion sizes should also increase. Additionally, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has created sport-themed portion sizes that can help children visualize appropriate serving sizes. For example, a serving of cereal should be baseball-sized, while a serving of raisins should be the size of a golf ball.

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Pay Attention to Your Own Habits

A study from the University of Florida revealed that parents who are hungrier at mealtime tend to serve more food to their children. What you eat and how much you eat can influence your child’s eating habits. It’s crucial to be mindful of your own hunger levels and make sure you aren’t mindlessly piling food onto your child’s plate.

Kids Will Take More Than They Need

Research has shown that when presented with a large portion of food, children tend to eat more. You can use this knowledge to your advantage by offering a big bowl of nutrient-dense salad before serving the rest of the meal. This encourages your child to fill up on vegetables, which are packed with essential nutrients.

Remember, the serving size mentioned on labels is a recommendation and may not be suitable for your child. This is especially true for processed foods like chips or cookies. You may need to cut the serving size in half to make it more appropriate for your young athlete. Consider pre-portioning snacks into smaller bags for easy, on-the-go grabbing.


Q: How can I teach my child about nutritional serving sizes?

A: One effective method is to use your child’s hand as a measuring tool, adjusting portion sizes as they grow. You can also utilize the sport-themed portion sizes recommended by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, making it easier for your child to visualize proper serving sizes.

Q: Why is it essential for parents to pay attention to their own eating habits?

A: Parents’ eating habits can influence how much their children eat. Hungrier parents tend to serve larger portions to their children. Being mindful of your own hunger levels and making conscious choices about portion sizes can positively impact your child’s eating habits.

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Teaching children about nutritional serving sizes is crucial for their overall health. As parents, we need to understand the concept of portion distortion and work towards serving appropriate amounts of food to our young athletes. Using hands as a measuring tool and integrating sport-themed portion sizes can make portion control easier to comprehend. Additionally, paying attention to our own eating habits and promoting the consumption of nutrient-dense foods can foster healthy eating habits for our children.