Statistically speaking, our kids are more likely to end up overweight than underweight. So, why do we get so obsessed with them eating everything on their plate at dinner? And are we setting them up to fail by not providing child size portions?

I know it may seem obvious, but I felt SO STUPID when I realised I was heading down that track with my own children … If our kids are consistently leaving food behind on their plates, it’s because we’re giving them too much food.

So, what is the perfect portion size for our little ones, you ask?

Here’s a really helpful and detailed brochure about children’s servings from the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG) for precise weights and measures. Weighing out individual servings to children each night, however, will

A) almost certainly make you crazy, and

(B) send a potentially dysfunctional eating message to your kids about what healthy eating means.

It can still be very helpful to do some measuring to give yourself a good visual sense of what a 75 gram portion of say, carrots, looks like. Do some experimenting if you’re curious but remember that children’s appetites are a precious gift and it’s best to follow their lead most of the time!

Our dinner plates are bigger than in past generations, the servings in fast food outlets are designed to upsize expectations, and as parents we’re typically more worried about our children’s hunger than we need to be.

More often than not, we’re overfeeding our kids, not underfeeding. Our dinner plates are bigger than in past generations, the servings in fast food outlets are designed to upsize expectations, and as parents we’re typically more worried about our children’s hunger than we need to be.

So here’s very quick way to ‘eyeball’ individual child size portions: ask each child to hold up their palms, a closed fist, and cupped hands.  Why? Because, roughly speaking:

  1. Protein serve: is the size of your child’s palm (not yours!)
  2. Carbohydrate serve: is the size of your child’s closed fist
  3. Vegetable serve: fill 2 cupped hands (their hands)

You may never look at their hands the same again! This trick has certainly come in *hand-y* in my household – both when I was worried that one child wasn’t eating enough (she really was) and when I’ve realised I was adding too much to the kids’ plates generally.

Now, it is just a guide, remember, and if you’ve got serious concerns about your child’s eating please always check with your GP.

Read more about portion distortion in the SERVE chapter of The Flawsome Family Mealbook or check out my post on fighting about food.