Calorie consumption and expenditure is extremely difficult to understand. It is incredibly hard to apply various, generalised numbers fed to us from varying sources to an individual child, especially when children weigh different amounts, are different heights and some are more active than others. So, when it comes to limiting and controlling what our children eat, it can often be hard to calculate and control their intake.
Overconsumption of food can cause numerous health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart problems.
If you want to check the amount of calories in certain foods go to http://www.nhs.uk/live-well/ for a useful guide and calorie checker on measuring how many calories are in common choices. For an official guide on calorie intake for children, please visit: http://www.nhs.uk/change4life/
We have compiled a few simple tips on how to manage portion control, making it easier to maintain consumption according to your child’s needs.
- Don’t serve children large portions and do not expect them to clear their plates. If they often leave food aside, decrease the amount in which you serve up. Do not use desserts or sweets as a reward for finishing a full meal, especially if they are struggling to finish their meal in the first place! This will tot up their intake even further and is not a good habit to teach, especially if the energy consumed will not be expended.
- Try to make informed changes. Replace calorie rich snacks and sides with foods lower in calories. Make sure to have a look at the NHS calorie counting guide: http://www.nhs.uk/live-well/ to check how many calories are in commonly consumed foods and to check the differences in calories when changing to a healthier side or snack. Make sure to take note of the nutritional information on food packaging, also.
- Dish out portions for your family; don’t leave bowls and dishes on the dining room table for them to help themselves. This will discourage your children reaching for unneeded second servings and will also help you control their portion size. By serving single portions, your child will start to learn what an appropriate portion is.
- ‘Me-sized’ meals – remember, not everyone needs the same amount of calories. Take into account that your 10-year old will eat less than you, but will need to eat more than your 6-year old! Level of physical activity also has a large part to play in how much energy our children will need to attain from food consumption. A child who enjoys running around and plays sports will need to consume larger portions of food than a child who leads a more sedentary lifestyle.
- Let everyone eat at their own pace. By eating food without haste, it allows your child to feel full without the want of a second portion.
- Remember to apply portion size control to dining out. Often restaurants provide child menus, or even junior portions which are tailored to your child’s specific age range. Restaurant portions can often be quite large, meaning that it is much easier to overeat than when at home!
- Remember that drinks also add more numbers to the overall figure of consumption! Avoid drinks high in sugar such as fizzy soft drinks and include fruit juice in your child’s diet occasionally. Water and milk are a great option, which add very little to the final figure.
- Furthermore, it is important to remember that you play a great role model to your children. If they see you plating up heaps of food, it does not set a good example!
As children learn and grow, it is important to alter their portion sizes to certain factors. They may tend to be hungry when playing more sports, during a growth spurt or during different seasons where they will be more active. Make sure to alter your portion regime to these various factors.
For official information on calorie control, please visit: