The documentary Super Size Me made many people more aware of the health dangers of the ever growing portion sizes over the past several decades. Larger serving sizes of meals with higher and higher calorie counts is contributing to a "super size" society.
But what are the implications of larger portion sizes for our kids?
I recently came across a study by the Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas that was conducted in 2003. The study, headed by behavioral nutrition scientist Dr. Jennifer Fisher, found that portion size can affect how much some kids eat.
In the study, preschool children in Pennsylvania ages 3 to 5, were served twice as large portions of macaroni and cheese on their plates. The children who were served the larger portions took bigger bites and ate more food when served super-size portions for their meal.
Dr. Fisher observed that the preschoolers ate 25 percent more food when they were given super-size portions that were twice the normal serving size. The study also found that the children consumed 15 percent more calories on the days when they were served the extra large portions.
Dr. Fisher noted that when children were allowed to serve themselves from large serving bowls, the children did not pile on the food, but rather served themselves single-size portions.
With childhood obesity on the rise, this study is a call to control portion sizes for children and control overeating at a young age. Children learn good eating habits when they are young that will effect their health and nutrition for a lifetime.
What can we as parents do to overcome the super-size syndrome?
1. When serving children, be sure the portion size is age appropriate.
2. Encourage children to take small bites.
3. Allow children to serve themselves and teach them to put single portions sizes on their plates.
4. Avoid high calorie meals such as fast food, take-away meals, and restaurant meals that serve large portions.
5. Prepare your own meals using healthy ingredients and serve family style meals with normal portion sizes.
If you don't regularly share family meals, then revive the family meal and eat together more often. Your relationship with your children will improve and you will be able to monitor portion sizes and control their caloric intake.
Let your children help plan the menu, prepare the food, and clean up. Your children's eating habits will improve and your family life will be healthier, too!
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Clarissa Camus is the founder of Easy Kids Recipes (www.easy-kids-recipes.com). Her website includes articles, cooking tips, a free newsletter, and lots of kid-friendly recipes.