how to get portion sizes right

The following information is accurate for both adult and child. For example purposes, we will address the reasons for a child and how it may affect their development. You need to realize that getting child portion sizes right is very important. If you give your child too much food on their plate it is likely they won’t be able to eat it all in one sitting and not only does this cause food waste but it also sets them up to feel that they shouldn’t finish their meal.

This, in turn, will cause more food waste in the future. If your child tends to eat all of their food even when it is a large portion they may get used to overeating in order to successfully clear their plate. Another reason to make sure serving sizes are correct and by no way am I suggesting that you should get the scales out and start weighing it all up.

Limit sugar consumption for health

woman eating fruit

Commercial cereals, for example, can contain 7 grams of sugar per a thirty-gram serving and it might be worth noting that 30 grams, is a very small amount.

How many grams is your child eating?

Your child may be eating an excessive amount of sugar that is exceeding their daily recommended amount. This again can set them up later on in life to fail. If your child consumed a lot of sugar daily, it is likely that they will develop an addiction dependency on the substance and may misbehave due to the absence from it. In adult life, this could form as a habit of binging (eating excess amounts of food) — and not the right type either.

It’s also nice to know that whilst obesity has increased, in the past few decades so has our plate size. Today an average plate measures 12 inches across, whereas it used to measure 7 inches. We are now eating nearly double the amount of food for our main meal.

Realistically we should be eating food until we are full, which for an adult is a good rule. However, as a parent, how are we meant to know when our children are full? When are they just eating more and more because it tastes nice? If they are not eating enough, simply because they do not like the flavour, we usually do hear about it. Instead of giving your child sugary food you should encourage healthy eating.

What is the right portion size for your child?

Using your hand can give you a good guide, but it does depend on what you are eating, if you are serving a meal for someone else, then it will be the size of their hand.

Make a fist – that is your portion sizes for these:

  • Cereal
  • Soup
  • Fruit

One teaspoon of these fatty foods:

  • Butter
  • Oil
  • Mayonnaise

One tablespoon of these:

  • Cheese
  • Salad dressings
  • Nut butter

One cupped hand for these snacks such as:

  • Crips
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels

Meat portion size:

If you are a meat-eater, you should eat as much meat as the size of the palm of your hand, which is typically half a chicken breast.

Salad portion size:

When it comes to eating a salad you can eat as much as you’d like but should aim for lots of different colours for variety and varied nutrition. The perfect size for veggies would be if you were to cup both hands together.

Are you eating too much?

We are all guilty of eating too much especially of those things that we know we probably shouldn’t. This is mainly a problem because we are not taught as well as we could be. If you have ever felt full like you couldn’t eat another bite but continue to do so anyway you have likely eaten too much. If you have set yourself up to have just one slice of cake the end up having more you have likely been a victim again.

Nowadays knowing whether you are getting the right amount or whether you are overdoing it is not an easy thing to measure. This is partly because of commercialized foods that are ready to eat. We don’t always pay too close attention to the ingredients inside and the conflicting information with colours from the dietary traffic light system as well as varying information from the NHS and other health societies makes it even more of a knowledge food fight.

It is completely normal

It’s important to know that you are not alone in this and most of the nation does indeed eat too much.  I am not saying ignore the health professionals I am just suggesting that you take their advice with a pinch of salt because that is exactly how much you should be having in one meal.

A good way to know if you are overeating is if you are feeling sluggish and have little to no energy. If you regularly overheat it may actually make you feel hungrier. You may lose satisfaction from eating.  You could be gaining lots of weight fast. And maybe consistently craving unhealthy foods that are either high in salt sugar or fat. Eating too much is also associated with depression, anxiety, stress, and worry.

Signs that you have eaten too much

If you have eaten too much food in one serving. This could also be accompanied by a belly ache and in more extreme cases could be sickness. Children that go to a party normally overeat indulging in unhealthy foods. Which is why they are more likely to be sick after eating too much because they really do overdo it!

It’s proven that if you are eating with others socially, you are likely to feel the urge to eat more. This is somewhat because of our survival instincts due to a worry about a lack of food. Overeating is more commonly done during the winter months. This can be for many reasons such as boredom, depression. And depending on your time zone a lack of vitamin D.

Don’t worry though because there is something that you can do, you should check out this guide on food portion sizes as it tells you exactly how much of each type of foods that you should be eating. 

How to Encourage Kids Healthy Eating

Eating healthy even for an adult can be a challenge, with the number of diets that are constantly being tried and the number of unhealthy products on the market. it is no wonder that children see us and learn some of our poor eating habits. Most local shops have unhealthy processed foods on every shelf and they even market it towards children, pulling them in with a funny looking character, and getting them addicted to the sugar content. So, how to encourage healthy eating with children?

Don’t worry though, there are many ways to encourage your little ones to eat more healthy foods. Here I will go through the methods and concepts that you can try. Each child is different, with a different personality and some of the ideas mentioned may not work but others will.

1. If you eat healthily, they will copy you

This is well known that kids copy their parent and this is not just with what you eat. It is known that they pick up on behaviours and patterns from there parents and if a parent shouts a lot, a child will learn this behaviour. Anything you want to see your children do or be better at, you will need to be the role model. So get eating those healthy greens and fruits and stop eating those sweets and fizzy drinks! This is for sure how to encourage healthy eating with children.

2. Make dinner time fun

I’m not saying have a full-on food fight but you could try making meal times a bit more fun. Let them eat without a knife and fork so that they can explore how foods feel with there hands, let them feel the textures. Let them somewhat play with it so that they can associate meal times with a happier feeling.

When eating their dinner this is a very bad time to shout at them. Doing so will only cause them to feel sad, or angry at mealtimes, associating it with a bad feeling and it could ruin their relationship with food giving you all sorts of other problems.

3. Let them help you cook

child and parent cooking

Remember a kitchen is hot, there are sharp instruments and it is generally unsafe for young kids to cook. However, you can bring some bits to the table. Get them to cut up veggies with a blunt (not sharp butter knife), get them to mix things together in a bowl, get them to peel garlic, let them use the pepper grinder, or pick the herbs from your garden.

There are many ways you can involve them without putting them in danger and not only will they enjoy the foods more because they helped make it but they will also learn the art of cooking and that is a wonderful skill that they will get better at throughout the teens and may even turn it into a career when they are an adult.

Cooking from scratch is important, that way you know what goes into the food. Takeaways, processed foods from microwave, oven-ready meals, or instant meals that you add water too will only undo your hard work. If you have the time cook from the beginning, and if you are on a budget you will likely save more money doing so, just make sure you stick to a shopping grocery list. If you are stuck for ideas, buy yourself a healthy eating cookbook as it will inspire many meal ideas and help you stick to it as part of your new lifestyle.

In our house, the only time we can eat whatever we like is if we go out for dinner to a restaurant which is rare and the likelihood of us eating healthy whilst out is quite high mainly because of us being used to eating healthy indoors. Sometimes treat yourself though.

4. Teach them the benefits of healthy food

This is perhaps the best way on how to encourage healthy eating with children. If it does good for your body that’s good but be more specific. Like the carrots help you see in the dark myth but more truth because carrots are actually good for your eyes because they contain carotene.

If you have a sore throat honey and lemon is good for it, bring them to nature and teach them what healthy foods do, and even what unhealthy foods do. Kids that have a deep understanding will understand that cakes and ice-cream will make them feel sick or that sweets will make their teeth fall out. If you can help them differentiate and you explain the health benefits of a natural food they are more likely to take it in and want to eat healthy foods. This works very well in conjunction with if you eat them they will copy.

5. Serve the vegetables into a picture

fruit face

This one is for those fussy eaters if they hardly ever eat their veggies. Upon serving you could make their plate into some sort of picture, for example, if they are interested in dinosaurs, you could make the veggies into a dinosaur picture, that would be much better, it’s no longer broccoli and carrots that we are eating, we are now eating a dinosaur and it tastes great!

6. Don’t give them anything else

Why would they eat it if they know they don’t have too and they can still get something else or that treat after dinner. I have seen this happen many times, I have a strict rule in our household mainly because I hate seeing food waste, the rule is if you don’t eat your lunch, you won’t have any snacks and you will have your lunch for dinner. If you decide that you are hungry before dinner then you will eat your lunch.

7. Offer healthy snacks throughout the day

Don’t feel bad for not giving it to them, you are helping them. Do you think the sugar is needed? Do you think that it is doing any good for them? You are giving them love and knowledge by not giving them unhealthy snacks, they should not even be on the market.

8. Be persistent

Did you know that you have to try new foods ten times before your tastebuds can decide if you like the food or not, and that is at 10 different times not at one sitting! Also, there are certain foods that your little one genuinely may not like such as mushrooms due to the texture but you should not stop cooking mushroom and serving it on their plate.

They should still have it around them and one day they will decide that they like it after all. When I was younger I was extremely fussy, I didn’t like tomatoes, beetroot, mushrooms, or peas but now those things are my favourites.

What should children be eating?

Before we look at what kids should be eating. We should discuss what a lot of children are and shouldn’t be. After school, it is not uncommon for children to be extremely hungry after a long day of learning.  I would head to the shops on the way home and go straight for the crisps, chocolate bars, and fizzy drink, but that was my choice and in my circumstance, it came down to my parents being unable to monitor what I was eating.

As I got older, I had to learn nutrition for myself, and this took a long time as it was very difficult to do. I had to break strong habits and learn to adjust my lifestyle.  Now, it is great because I can guarantee that my kids don’t have to go through what I did as an adult. The problem nowadays is that many parents are standing by the gates with sweets and biscuits in hand each day.

This is not setting a good example for them and will make them expect unhealthy foods that they will probably take into adulthood. Parents should encourage nutrition, not poor health. It is not just unhealthy foods that are the problem but also fizzy drinks artificial juices and fattening milkshakes. This is such a shame because, at that young age, their brains are like sponges absorbing everything around them.

It’s not just unhealthy foods that are the problem but also fizzy drinks artificial juices and fattening milkshakes. This is such a shame because, at that young age, their brains are like sponges absorbing everything around them. This will allow your child’s brain to develop just as it should, without ruining their taste buds, or causing damage to their bodies and allow their bones to grow strong.

Primary schools and nurseries will likely introduce healthful eating by offering fruits and vegetables as a daily snack. Which in itself is a useful way to teach our children what the names of the fruits and vegetables are, and how they grow naturally. This is not something that should just be left to schools, you should also make sure to reinforce healthy eating at home.

Advice for fussy eaters

fussy child not eating

I know a lot about this subject because I was an extremely fussy child, I didn’t like:

  • Raw tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Radishes
  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Rocket, spinach, broccoli or anything green
  • Eggs

Despite me not liking a lot of these things, my nan persevered with me. She would continue to put raw tomatoes in my salad, mushrooms finely diced in my Bolognese, put peas on my plate, kidney beans in my chilli, and make me eggs on toast for lunch. With the green vegetables that was a lot more effort, she would cook spinach with pasta to infuse it, and buy spinach pasta and I would still refuse it.

All of her efforts were not wasted though, according to studies. People have to try something a lot of different times before they know whether they actually like it or not. What my nan was doing may have seemed like a waste but it worked. Now a lot of those things are my favourite.

I now don’t feel like a full English breakfast is complete without mushrooms or eggs. Peas now seem to taste naturally sweet and even moreish to me. Chickpeas in the form of hummus or falafels are now a staple part of my diet. Lastly, a chilli con carnie would not be right without those kidney beans. If your child is being fussy my advice to you is to be persistent because my nan was with me and it worked. They will eventually get used to those things that they don’t like. It’s also worth noting that many toddlers go through a stage of being fussy and they do grow out of it.

If they are fussy with specific things, it could be a clear sign that they should be exposed to it more. Children do also copy their parents, do you like the things that you are trying to get them to eat? If they don’t eat their food, are you offering them something else instead? If so, this could be the reason as to why they are not eating your food in the first place.

You should not force them to eat the food, but just don’t offer anything else, or any snacks until the next mealtime. Forcing your child to eat a specific food will only make them rebel and provoke a stubborn behaviour from them. Associating meal time with negativity can actually promote negative feelings regarding food and should be avoided at all costs. Be strong and laid back at the same time, I wish you the best of luck!

Is eating together important?

family eating together

Eating is one of those things that you just have to do, and to some, it can seem somewhat of a chore. Sometimes families eat together and other times eat separately alone. When I was younger I would enjoy eating together as a family. Sometimes on those days when I would be out with my friends until late. I would get back home and, my grandparents would be in bed asleep.

It was a common routine that my main meal would be left in the microwave ready for me to heat it up. Not only does microwaved food not taste as good as when it was freshly made but I did find it lonely. Being alone meant that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my food as much.

Nowadays, I am happy to eat out at a restaurant alone. Maybe it’s because of the vibes from all of the other people, that it takes away that loneliness. My partner in her teen years spent many nights eating takeaway food alone in her room in front of the TV. Whilst she enjoyed it, it came with its negative effects. Is eating together important? I would personally say that eating together is very important.

Eating together brings you all closer together as a family. It is a time when you can talk about your day. Sharing any problems that you may be having and is a great time to offer advice to each other. When you are sitting together as a group. There are many moments of laughter, happiness and overall it makes the meal more enjoyable. Mealtimes should be a fun, and happy environment with social interactions. For young children regularly eating alone, it is likely to affect their social skills later on in life and may also develop bad eating habits and feelings of low self-esteem.

Which can be a habit that is hard to break, there are many benefits to eating together compared to eating alone. Memories without other people are worthless. Enjoy your time with your friends and family! Now as a father to two amazing children, I couldn’t imagine eating without them!

What time should children eat dinner?

Having young children can be demanding. They want to eat early in the morning, then before you know it its snack time then lunchtime already. My children generally eat dinner between 4.30-5.30. Their bed-time is around 6.30 and I like them to have food in their belly without going straight to bed after eating as this can cause discomfort.

It is because as adults we like to eat dinner a little later. What time should children eat dinner very much depends on your child’s routine. It should be at least an hour or two before they go to bed. They shouldn’t have a bath until at least 30 minutes after eating as this can cause some digestive issues.

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