As portion sizes continue to get larger, and classic nutritional guidelines like the food pyramid become outdated, it’s important to recognize what a healthy and well-balanced meal actually looks like. Instilling a healthy diet into your child’s life early on can influence them to make better dietary decisions in the future as well as help prevent health issues such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis.
What is the difference between serving size and portion size?
Despite often being used interchangeably, “serving size” and “portion size” do not mean the same thing. A serving size is a specific amount of food, defined by common measurements such as cups, ounces, teaspoons, that is recommended by nutritional guidelines like MyPlate . Serving sizes can be found on food labels and are used to measure nutritional value. Portion size is the actual amount of food that you choose to eat, which may be more or less than the recommended serving size.
Generally speaking, the USDA recommends making our plates consist of ½ fruits and vegetables, and a ¼ each of grains and lean protein. The following chart breaks down a day’s worth of healthy eating based upon the average needs of children and teenagers.
|Pre-school||Elementary School||Middle School||High School|
|Fruits||1-1½ cups||1½ cups||1½ cups||1½- 2 cups|
|Vegetables||1-2 cups||2 cups||2-2½ cups||2½- 3 cups|
|Grains||3-5 ounces||5 ounces||5-6 ounces||6-8 ounces|
|Protein||2-5 ounces||5 ounces||5 ounces||5-6½ ounces|
|Dairy||2-2½ cups||2½ cups||3 cups||3 cups|
|Oils||3-4 teaspoons||5 teaspoons||5 teaspoons||5-6 teaspoons|