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Portion Distortion

Many Americans suffer from "portion distortion." It’s not so much what we eat that’s unhealthy; rather, it's that we eat too much of it. The "super-size" generation is growing up obese. How can we plan for healthy eating? How can we steer our preschoolers away from the idea that "bigger is always better"?

We develop food habits as young children—likes, dislikes, and portion sizes. Healthy eating calls for portion control. Offer smaller portions to your 3- to 6-year-olds. They will ask for more, if they’re still hungry. Dietary guidelines (PDF) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provide portion sizes for adults. Cut these by one-half to one-third when feeding young children. If a slice of bread is an adult portion, offer a young child one-half, or a slightly older child two-thirds, of a slice.

Here is a descriptive portion comparison guide for good nutrition from

Think smaller for good child nutrition:
  • One-half of a cup of fruit, vegetable, cooked cereal, pasta, or rice = a small fist
  • Three ounces of cooked meat, poultry, or fish = a deck of cards
  • One tortilla = a small (7-inch) plate
  • One-half of a bagel = the width of a small soft drink lid
  • One teaspoon of margarine or butter = your thumb tip
  • Two tablespoons of peanut butter = a golf ball
  • One small baked potato = a computer mouse
  • One pancake or waffle = a music CD
  • One medium apple or orange = a baseball
  • Four small cookies (like vanilla wafers) = four checkers
  • One and one-half ounces of cheese = six dice


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Updated on 3/21/2012