Tuesday, June 19, 2012
In the first installment of this four part series with Dr. Dyan Hes, we learned what being a pediatric obesity specialist was all about and the sensitive, positive, preventive approach that’s most effective. Today, we’ll focus on portion control.
Dr. Jen: It sounds so simple—eat the right amount and exercise the right amount and it should all balance out to being healthy, huh? Well, it’s not that simple – or we wouldn’t need specialists like you to help families. Can you share with us a recommendation that our readers can relate to and set into practice?
Dr. Hes: As a childhood obesity expert, one of the easiest recommendations I can make to a parent is to serve their child a meal on a child size plate preferably with partitions. This sounds like such an easy solution, but when you live in a society that emphasizes quantity vs. quality of food, childhood nutrition gets lost in the equation.
Dr. Jen: Does this apply to food served at home or food served outside of the home?
Dr. Hes: We live in a world that suffers from severe “portion distortion”. Our children learn to consume adult size meals off adult sized plates. This habit inevitably stretches out a child’s stomach, so that when a smaller, appropriate child-sized meal is offered to that child, he/she feels hungry and is dissatisfied. Think of the child size plate trick when out at a restaurant—even dividing a too-big adult (or kiddie meal!) plate into two sections (one to take home and one to serve). At home, yes, use kid size plates even up to early school age.
Dr. Jen: What should be on that kiddie size plate?
Dr. Hes: Well, once babies start eating solid foods, choose safe foods with a meat or protein, carbohydrate/starch and vegetable or fruit. What I like to say is that an entire plate should never be a starch like an entire plate of spaghetti. A whole grain pasta or brown rice should be a side dish, not an entire plate. Colorful fruits and vegetables should be offered to children.
Dr. Jen: Do you recommend that kids eat what their parents eat?
Dr. Hes: The majority of children who eat well were offered a healthy variety of food as infants and toddlers. It is never too late to start healthy eating but it is a lot easier if it is initiated at a younger age. Try to be creative with your children and help them make their child’s plate something there are excited about. Model healthy eating habits yourself and – yes – as long as it is age/developmentally safe, eat the same foods.
Dr. Jen: Amazing advice, Dr. Hes! Thanks for this and we’re excited for the next part in our series with you!
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