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Healthy Living

Many parents worry whether their children are getting “enough” to eat. Here are some guidelines to help you make sure your child gets enough, but not too much.

  1. Your child does not need the same serving size as an adult. Offer him small portions, with seconds only if he asks for them. A typical portion size should be about half of an adult size. For many foods, that’s about the size of the palm of his hand. Here are some acceptable “child- sized” portions.
    • 1 teaspoon = 5 ml
    • 1 tablespoon = 15 ml
    • 1 ounce = 30 ml
    • 1 cup = 8 ounces = 240 ml
    • 4–6 ounces milk or juice
    • 4 tablespoons vegetables
    • 1⁄2 cup cottage cheese or yogurt
    • 1⁄2 cup cereal
    • 2 ounces hamburger
    • 2 ounces chicken
    • 1 slice toast
    • 1 teaspoon margarine, butter, or dressing 
  2. In general, limit snacks to two a day. Choose healthy items instead of offering him unhealthy foods such as soft drinks, candy, pastries, or salty and greasy items. As long as they are healthy, you can give him two snacks per day. More than two snacks a day may spoil his appetite for his main meals. Unhealthy snacks will expose his teeth to a higher risk of cavities over an extended period of time. To minimize the risk of cavities and excess calories, rely on nutritious snack foods like those listed below. Keep in mind that it often takes about a dozen times for a child to develop a taste for an unfamiliar food item:
    • fruit
    • yogurt
    • carrot, celery, or cucumber sticks (can dip into low-fat ranch low-fat dressing)
    • bran muffins
    • whole-grain toast or crackers 
    • string cheese
    • On special occasions, your child can have dessert items or a sweet treat,but select low-fat oatmeal cookies or other low-fat choices whenever possible.
  3. Don’t use food as a reward for good behavior.
  4. Make sure your child actually is hungry or thirsty when he asks for food or drink. If what he really wants is attention, talk or play with him, but don’t use food as a pacifier.
  5. Don’t allow him to eat while playing, listening to stories, or watching television. Allowing him to do so will lead to “unconscious” eating well past the point when he’s full.
  6. Learn the calorie counts for the foods he eats most often and monitor how many calories he consumes on an average day. The total daily calories for a child age four to five should be 900 to 1,500, or about 40 calories per pound of body weight. 
  7. Don’t worry if your child’s food intake is inconsistent. One day he may seem to eat anything he can get his hands on, and the next he’ll grimace at the sight of everything. When he refuses to eat, he may not be hungry because he’s been less active than the day before. Also consider the possibility that he’s using food as a means of exercising control. Especially during the period when he’s being negative about nearly everything, he’s bound to resist your efforts to feed him. When that happens, don’t force him to eat. Rest assured that he will not starve himself, and he’ll seldom, if ever, lose weight. If, however, a markedly decreased appetite persists for more than one week, or there are other signs of illness, such as fever, nausea, diarrhea, or weight loss, consult your pediatrician.
  8. Your child needs to drink approximately two cups (16 ounces, or 480 ml) of nonfat or low-fat milk a day to meet his calcium requirement. Milk is an important food, mainly because of its calcium content. Too much milk, however, may reduce his appetite for other important foods.

 

Last Updated
5/11/2013
Source
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.