When we are discussing serving sizes for children, we mean children ages 2- 14. For these children, an adult-size serving can be just too much. You should be serving a child about ¼ to one third of an adult sized portion or on average 1 tablespoon for each year of the child’s age. So an 8 year old child would have a serving of 8 tablesoons or approximatly 1/2 cup of food. This is a serving size, not a complete meal, for example a serving of pasta would be 1/2 cup.
So lunch for an 8 year old might look like this:
- ½ cup of whole grain pasta mixed with ¼ cup of chopped broccoli, ¼ cup of chopped cooked chicken, ¼ cup of low-fat mozzarella cheese cut into cubes and all tossed with a spinach-basil pesto. And served with a small multi grain dinner roll or a few multi grain crackers.
- Dessert is a ½ cup pineapple or mango cubes
You have 2 servings of grains, 1 serving of vegetables, 2 servings of meat, 1 serving of dairy, and 1 fruit serving. Plus your child gets a little extra nutrition from the spinach-basil pesto along with a serving of health oils. This will get your child through the most grueling afternoon of school work, recess and gym class.
To start children on lifelong healthy eating habits, experts recommend serving your child a little less and let him or her ask for seconds. This encourages your child to eat only when they are hungry and not just because food is in front of them. Face it, even too much healthy food can cause obesity.
So what exactly is 3 oz of meat? Or an ounce of cheese? A cup of pasta? Need a visual? Use these guidelines to help you plan a healthy meal plan for your child that meets his or her needs:
- One cup of food (8oz or 16 tbls.) looks like the size of a softball.
- 3 oz of meat is the same size as a deck of cards
- 1 oz of cheese is the same size as two dice or one slice deli cheese.
- 1 Tbsp. is approximately the same size as your thumb.
- 1 tsp. is approximately the same size as your pinky.