How Much Is Too Much?

Are you sick of hearing about the obesity epidemic yet? It seems like every time you turn around somebody is yammering on about it. We all know by now that today’s kids are fatter than any generation before them and that they face unprecedented levels of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure (to name a few) as a result.

And we know that if a person is overweight as a child, he or she is much more likely to battle weight problems for the rest of his life. You probably also know that in order to avoid some of these problems you have to get those kids of yours outside playing a lot more than most do – at least 30 minutes every day. And you must know how important it is to limit the sugary drinks, junk food snacks, and take-out dinners.

But how much do you know about portion size – seriously? Too much on the plate can easily lead to overeating, which can then lead to unwanted weight gain. The problem is that most of us haven’t got a clue as to what constitutes a normal, healthy serving of anything these days.

Many of us have been fooled into thinking that a normal portion is much larger than it should be, partly because the restaurants we go to serve gi-normous amounts of food. And the plates and glasses themselves are bigger, too, compared to the ones our grandparents used. It’s simply a fact that what passes for a “normal” size of anything these days has grown. “Super-size,” has, unfortunately, become the new norm.

It’s frustrating, it’s confusing and we hear your pain. We know you want to do the right thing and keep those portions healthy. So we are going to clue you in to what really is normal when it comes to serving size. We figure that once you’re clear, you will adjust the amounts at your house accordingly and teach your kids how to judge for themselves how much is enough and how much is too much.

It’s really hard to figure out what’s what until you have some visual prompts to help you. Once you do, it’s not so tough. For example, did you know that if you’re trying to figure out how much half a cup of cooked rice is, you can just imagine a baseball? Or that you can think of a tablespoon of your favorite salad dressing as being the size of a poker chip? And that there is a simple way to remember how big one piece of chocolate or a single serving of ice cream should be?

How? Easy! Take a look at this great chart from Web M.D. and you’ll be on your way to becoming an expert on keeping those serving sizes in the healthy realm. Everything will become crystal clear. Just print out the chart and tape it to your fridge (there is also a printable version for your wallet). Then, next time you’re about to make a snack for your hungry little monsters, quiz them on how much they think you should dole out to make one healthy portion. They will love the game and get a head start on learning an important aspect of good nutrition at the same time. Win-win.

P.S. Also take a look at their terrific section called “Fit Kids” which is packed with ideas and information on how to create healthy lifestyles for children at every age. It’s a great and fun teaching tool to use together with your troops.


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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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The Mama ButtonThe information provided by MamasOnCall is not intended as a substitute for professional advice, but is for information purposes only. You assume full responsibility for the health and well-being of your family. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical or psychiatric condition.