Proper Portions for Preschoolers

One of the biggest problems most of us have with developing healthy eating habits is that we have no idea of what a proper portion size should look like. Accustomed to the huge portions served by restaurants, we have all developed a skewed view of how much food we should be eating on a daily basis. This problem often carries over into how we feed our children. Many kids are eating much larger portions than they should be of certain foods, while other foods aren’t served in large enough portions or at all.

Learning the proper portion sizes for your preschooler will help you to keep her healthy and avoid obesity. This applies to beverages as well as food; in fact, beverages are a common culprit for super-sized portions.

How Much Should a Preschooler be Drinking?

The two main beverages, aside from water, that the average preschooler drinks are milk and juice. While these may both sounds like healthy choices, too much of either one isn’t good for a little body.

It may surprise you to know that a preschooler only requires two cups – that’s sixteen ounces – of milk in a day. If you serve it in an 8 oz cup, that means only two servings a day. Too much milk can fill your child up, causing them to miss out on nutritious foods, and can also lead to anemia. If your child likes milk more often, offer a smaller serving size of 4-6 ounces so that she can have 3-4 servings in a day.

A serving of juice for a preschooler should be no larger than 6 ounces, and juice should only be served once a day. Serve only 100% juice, and avoid juice drinks that are full of sugar. There is no appropriate serving size for sugary drinks like soda, and your child should avoid them as much as possible,

Portion Sizes for Food

Remember that your preschooler doesn’t have a very big stomach, and doesn’t need portions the same size as you might consume. Realistic portion sizes for young children are much smaller than many parents believe.

To get the recommended 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables, serve about ¼ cup of cooked or raw veggies, or ½ of a whole fruit. For canned fruits, a serving size is similar to cooked vegetables at about ¼ of a cup. That serving of juice does count as a portion of fruit, but it should only be one of the servings each day.

A proper portion size for a serving of protein is about 1 ounce of cooked lean meat, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, or ½ cup of cooked beans. When it comes to dairy products, a portion includes about ½ cup of milk, ½ cup of yogurt, or ¾ ounce of cheese. Finally, a proper portion of grains for a preschooler is ½ slice of bread, ¼ cup of cooked cereal, rice or pasta, or about 4 crackers.

If you want your preschooler to be able to eat everything on his plate, make sure you are serving him portion sizes he can handle. The most commonly over-sized foods are meats and grains, so as a general rule try to make sure the vegetables take up more room on the plate than foods like pasta or rice. If need be, measure the portion sizes until you get better at eyeing how much is enough – and how much is too much.

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