Once you know just how much of each food group your kids ought to eat every day, you’ll need to work on giving them the right portions. You don’t need to weigh and measure everything you put on your children’s plates – who has the time, anyway? – because there are a few different tips and tricks for knowing just how much fruits, veggies, grains, protein and dairy to put on the dinner table. Serving portions that are too big can increase the risk of weight gain, which carries with it higher risks of developing diseases.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offered up some guidelines to help you more easily determine just how much of each food group you should serve your kids.
One serving of fruit is roughly 1 cup, and 100-percent fruit juice as well as fresh fruit that can fit approximately into 1 cup each count as one serving. For dried fruit, the rule of thumb is to cut the portion in half to equate to one serving. Canned fruits, as long as they’re drained, are counted the same as fresh or frozen fruit – 1 cup equals one serving.
A serving of vegetables is typically equal to 1 cup, but this can vary for certain veggies. For instance, one serving of leafy greens like spinach, kale and collards depends on whether they’re raw or cooked. Raw, you should eat 2 cups’ worth to get one serving – and the same applies for greens you don’t usually cook, like romaine lettuce and watercress – but if they’re cooked, 1 cup is the perfect amount.
When it comes to veggies you can eat whole, you may not want to chop them up to determine the right portion. A large ear of corn (8 to 9 inches), two large stalks of celery (11 to 12 inches), a medium baked or boiled potato (2 1/2- to 3 inch-diameter), a large, baked sweet potato (minimum 2 1/4-inch diameter), a large tomato (3-inch diameter), and a large red pepper (3- to 4-inch diameter) all equate to one serving.
A serving of grains is roughly 1 ounce, which can be easy to measure with bread, as one slice is roughly one serving. A cup of cooked pasta and 1/2 cup of cooked rice are each one serving as well. But what about other grain-based foods? Well, if you want one large bagel, that’s the same as 4 ounces of grains. For snack crackers like saltines, roughly seven make up one serving. An English muffin is worth 2 ounces, and bran and corn muffins (3 1/2 inches in diameter) count as 3 ounces. How about popcorn? You can have 3 cups popped if you want one serving. If you’re craving a tortilla, the large ones are 4 ounces apiece.
Like grains, a serving of protein is 1 ounce, but this can be difficult to decipher when dealing with pieces of meat. When it comes to chicken, a small breast is roughly 3 ounces, while half a Cornish game hen is about 4 ounces. A small steak like a filet is about 3 1/2 to 4 ounces, while a small burger made of lean meat is 2 to 3 ounces. If you want a healthy omelet, three egg whites is the same as 2 ounces. When it comes to beans and peas, 1/4 cup cooked is a 1-ounce equivalent, while a soy-based or bean burger is roughly 2 ounces.
Like fruits and veggies, one serving is typically the same as 1 cup, at least for milk, yogurt (frozen and regular) and soy milk. When it comes to ice cream, the serving size is 1 1/2 cups – and a scoop is worth about 1/2 cup. For cheeses, one slice of hard (cheddar, Swiss, etc.) is the same as 1/2 cup of milk, while a slice of processed cheese (American) equals 1/3 cup.