Sometimes a child can eat all of the right foods but still gain weight. This is when parents should examine portion control. From a young age, kids can become conditioned to eat all of the food in front of them, whether they’re hungry or not. Serving appropriate portions to children helps them eat only what they need. Here is a general guideline about how much kids should be eating:

  • Toddlers should eat approximately one quarter of an adult-sized portion.
  • Children age 4 to 8 should eat one-third of an adult-sized portion.

Even when portion sizes are in check, the ratio of food groups offered can lead to weight gain. According to the “plate method,” one-half of a child’s plate should be vegetables, one-quarter should be starchy sides (including corn, potatoes and peas), and one-quarter should be lean protein. Fruit and low-fat dairy servings may be added. If a child asks for seconds, offer more vegetables.

~ Jennifer Crouse, RD, CD, CDE, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin


Help get your portions under control — 2 Comments

  1. Our family eats pretty well and there’s always at least a vegetable and fruit with dinner. But frankly, our 2 year old doesn’t want half his dinner to be veggies. (I don’t know of any toddler that fits the bill. 🙂
    Any suggestions for creative vegetable marketing? Opinions about the Deceptively Delicious craze? Thanks!

  2. Great question!

    I have mixed feelings about Deceptively Delicious. While it seems like a great idea to make foods healthier by adding pureed or hidden vegetables, it doesn’t teach children to enjoy eating those foods. We want to make fruits and vegetables something that is desirable for children. This can take a lot of patience on your part! It may take exposing foods 5-10 times in many different ways before a child will accept them. One of my favorite resources for how to feed children is Ellyn Satter. She has written a number of books on the subject, but also has a lot of information on her website:

    There are a number of ways to make vegetables fun. Mixing vegetables into your child’s food (not hiding them) can make for an easier transition – think vegetables on pizza or broccoli mixed into macaroni and cheese. Kids also like to dip things – try peanut butter or a light vegetable or ranch dip. One of my favorite ways to get kids to try new things is by getting them involved in the process. If your child helps pick out a recipe to make and is involved in preparing it, they are much more likely to try it. I also know families that have had great success with getting young children involved with growing vegetables in their garden and having them pick them themselves. Here is a list of fun foods that kids can help make from the website:

    Good luck!