Parents in Action: Portion Distortion

Now that Halloween is over the holidays are in full swing. For many, this time of year means family, friends and parties. But it also means, food. And lots of it. Since the early 1980s, portion sizes in the U.S. have more than doubled creating a public that is desensitized to huge plates and meals. partially credits this to the increase in weight and medical problems in kids and adults.


Where the problem lies.

Over the last 30 years, we've become accustom to massive portions, which distort the way we cook and consume food. The battle to take back modest portion sizes is on and the solution must start with your dietary habits. To combat this warped sense of portions, in 2011 the Department of Agriculture replaced the food pyramid with the MyPlate diagram showing families a simplified way to organize their daily food intake. The diagram has four main sections: fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins. The website offer families a printable version of MyPlate for your families to transition back to more appropriate food portions.


What parents should do.

Portion control really starts at home. There are some unique tools like the Meal Measure that shows you precise portions to help you avoid overeating. You can also use this when you're preparing and packing the kids' lunches. When it comes to lunch try packing food in portion-sized bags or containers. Some studies show that if food is presented on smaller dishes or packages you're likely to eat less.


Dinnertime is also synonymous with distorted portions. Overeating often comes from going back for leftovers and recommends that once meals are served store leftovers in single servings as opposed to in large batches. That way, when your kids go to raid the fridge they'll automatically grab a portion that makes sense and not a heaping plate of last night's dinner.


How kids can learn.

To help your family better control portions the kids will have to play an active part in controlling what they eat and how much. Your kids may not be able to tell what a 1/4 cup looks like but they can use items they know, like a baseball, tennis ball or C.D., to visualize the correct portion size. According to, here are some portions along with some ways to spot the correct portions size.



Portion Size

Comparable To


1 slice

CD cover

Dry cereal

1 cup


Rice or Pasta

1/2 cup

1/2 baseball


1 piece

Bar of soap

Orange, apple, pear

1 small

Tennis ball


1/4 cup

Golf ball

Pancake or Waffle

1 ounce


Backed Potato

1 medium

Computer mouse

Vegetables, chopped

1 cup


Fat-free, low-fat milk

1 cup



1 1/2 ounces

9-volt battery

Grilled or baked fish

3 ounces



1 teaspoon

Postage Stamp

Ice Cream

1/2 cup

1/2 baseball


Like the Meal Measures there are tools like The Portion Plate that are created for kids to better understand and execute portion control.


Portion control comes from understanding what's healthy and how much your family should eat. For more unique ways to help fight portion distortion visit , or



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