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Health Information For Parents
These days, lots of us eat too much and don’t realize it because we’ve become so used to seeing (and eating!) large portions.
People who often overeat are likely to become overweight. They also risk getting a number of medical problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, breathing and sleeping problems, and even depression. Adults who are overweight or obese are at greater risk for heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.
It’s easy to understand why the food industry tends to serve way more food than is necessary: Customers love to feel like they’re getting the best value for their money! But the value meal is no deal when it triples our calories and sets the stage for health problems.
One reason that people eat too much at meals is that they tend to eat what’s on their plate. As portions have increased, so have the calories we eat. So it’s helpful to understand the difference between serving sizes and recommended amounts of different foods.
Serving sizes. The serving size on a food label is not telling you the amount you should eat. The serving size is a guide to help you see how many calories and nutrients — as well as how much fat, sugar, and salt — are in that quantity of that food.
Sometimes the serving size on the food label will be a lot less than you are used to eating or serving. In some cases, it’s perfectly OK (and even a good idea) to eat and serve more than the serving size listed. For example, if you’re cooking frozen vegetables and see the serving size is 1 cup, it’s no problem to eat more because most vegetables are low in calories and fat, yet high in nutrition.
But when it comes to foods that are high in calories, sugar, or fat, the serving size is a useful guide to alert you that you may be getting more than is healthy. Let’s say you buy a 3-ounce bag of cookies and you eat the whole bag. If the label shows the serving size is 1 ounce, not only did you have 3 servings, you also had 3 times the listed calories as well as 3 times the sugar.
Recommended amounts. Serving sizes tell you how much nutrition you’re getting from a food but they don’t tell you which foods you need to stay healthy — or how much of those foods to eat. That’s where the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate comes in.
MyPlate is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It can help you get the right mix and amount of food for you and your family.
A great way to think about healthy portion sizes is to use the concept of the “divided plate.” Think of a plate divided into four equal sections:
The foods in each section should not overlap or be piled high. Dividing the plate this way not only will help you keep portions under control, but will help you serve more balanced meals to your family.
Parents need to take control of our own portion sizes and help kids learn to do the same.
Here are some tips:
Get kids actively involved in figuring out how much to eat.
A serving of rice is about the same size as an ice cream scoop, so let your child use the scoop to serve “rice cream” to the family. A piece of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards, so see how that chicken breast measures up. And why not break out the kitchen scale while you’re at it? Weighing or measuring food may not be your idea of fun, but it probably is to your kids — plus it’s a great way to reinforce math concepts.
One easy way to size up portions if you don’t have any measurements is to use your hand as a guide. Kids have smaller hands than adults, so it serves as a reminder that kids should eat smaller portions:
And don’t forget the good news about portions: they work both ways. You may want to cut back on spaghetti portions, but you can dish out more than one serving of carrots or green beans. This can help make the “five a day” fruit and vegetable goal more doable.
Remember the role you play in showing kids how to size up portions. If you eat two heaping helpings of food each night, that’s what your kids will learn too.
As kids grow, their appetites will vary depending on a number of things. They tend to be more hungry during growth spurts or sports seasons when they’re more active, and less hungry during downtimes. As their appetites change, keep serving right-sized portions and encourage them to slow down to enjoy their food. Then check in on whether they’re full before they go for seconds.
Good nutrition and a balanced diet help kids grow up healthy. Here’s how to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits.
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Here are 10 simple tips to help you raise kids who develop healthy eating habits!
Preventing kids from becoming overweight means making choices in the way your family eats and exercises, and how you spend time together.
Inviting kids into the kitchen to help you cook can be a great way to create quality together time and help your child learn and refine some basic skills.
Even if you eat a healthy morning meal every day, it can be tough to get kids fueled up. Here’s how to make breakfast more appealing.
If the right foods are offered at the right times, snacks can play an important role in managing kids’ hunger and boosting nutrition.
Find out how to make healthy food choices for your family by reading food labels.
The food label on a food package is a lot like the table of contents in a book – it tells you exactly what the food contains. Read our article for kids for more about food labels.
All kids need to eat balanced meals and have a healthy diet. But should that balance change for kids who play on a sports team or work out?
Some fats are good for kids and an important part of a healthy diet. Here’s what parents should know.
Look at any packaged food and you’ll see the food label. This nutrition facts label gives the lowdown on everything from calories to cholesterol. Read more about food labels.
Healthy snacks are essential for busy teens. Find out how eating nutritious snacks throughout the day can keep your energy level high and your mind alert.
You don’t need to be a dietitian to figure out how to make healthy food choices. Before grabbing a shopping cart and heading for the aisles, read this article to make grocery shopping a snap.
You may know that you should eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Here are some tips on making that happen.
From all you hear, you’d think fat and calories are really bad for you, but we all need a certain amount of them in our diets. Find out the truth about fat and calories.
Want to eat healthier? It’s easy when you learn the difference between Go, Slow, and Whoa foods!
MyPlate is designed to make it easier to understand healthy eating.
Lots of us don’t realize we’re eating too much because we’ve become so used to large portions. This article for teens helps you take control of your plate.
Most dieters regain the weight they lost by dieting when they go back to their old eating habits. Get our tips on the best ways to drop excess weight.
We all know the importance of eating well. But how are you supposed to do so when your schedule is so demanding you’re never at home? Find out how to make healthy food choices on the go.
If your kids come in from school and head straight for the kitchen for something to eat, here’s how to make sure they still have room for a healthy dinner.
Packing school lunches are a chance to steer kids toward good nutrition. Here are ideas for some fun and easy lunchbox options.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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