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Portion Distortion: Bigger Isn't Always Better

It's known fact that portions have gotten bigger and bigger in the last 20 years. Most of us don’t even know what normal is anymore, and we are becoming desensitized to large quantities.

Take bagels, for example: 20 years ago, most bagels had a 3-inch diameter and 140 calories; today they have a 6-inch diameter and 350 calories. If your child eats one for breakfast, they just consumed three servings of grain—half of the recommended servings per day.

Unfortunately, this big food is also making our children bigger. Consuming unhealthy food and too many calories, along with spending too much time in front of the TV or computer, is helping to shorten the lives of our kids and puts them at risk for disease.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects.

  • Obese and overweight youth are more likely to have risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
  • Obese adolescents are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
  • Children and adolescents who are overweight or obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and social and psychological problems such as poor self-esteem.
  • In addition, these children are more at risk to develop many types of cancers.

Portion Control is in Your Hand

Using your hand is one easy way to help determine appropriate portion sizes.

  • A fist equals about 1 cup
  • Your thumb is about 1 ounce or 1 tablespoon
  • The palm of your hand is about 3 ounces
  • Your cupped hand is about 1-2 ounces

By teaching your kids to use portion control, you are helping them be healthier kids who will grow into healthy adults.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;; National Institutes of Health; Weight Watchers

Take Control

It’s time to take control and help your kids learn the importance of not only eating healthy foods, like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean protein, but also what normal, healthy portions look like. is a government website that offers colorful visuals of what a normal plate should look like—half of which should be fruits and vegetables, one-quarter grains and one-quarter lean protein. The ValleyCare Health Library has posters and other resources for use at home or in the classroom. For more information, call 925.734.3315.

Snacks—Tasty, Easy and Healthy!

When it’s time for a snack, the last thing anyone wants to do is wash, peel, cut or otherwise prepare something to eat.

Snacks are all about convenience and taste. That’s why a hungry kid will grab a bag of chips or box of cookies after school. You just rip them open and dive right in.

But, with just a little planning, healthy snacks can be convenient too.


Dietitians suggest washing and cutting fresh vegetables and fruit ahead of time so that they’re ready to eat when kids are ready to snack. Some busy parents opt to let the grocery store handle the prep work and purchase pre-cut fruit and veggies.

Kids also are more likely to eat healthy snacks when those snacks are easy to find. Keep fresh fruit on the kitchen counter. Or put those carrot sticks in a see-through container on a lower shelf of the fridge.

Often, the healthiest snacks are those that include a variety of nutrients. Here are few ideas from the registered dietitians at ValleyCare:

  • Homemade popsicles—use 100 percent fruit juice with berries or chopped fruit
  • Ants on a log—celery spread with peanut butter, topped with raisins
  • Cubed cheese and fruit chunks on a toothpick
  • Plain popcorn topped with parmesan cheese
  • Turkey/cheese/veggie rollups—turkey and low-fat cheese wrapped around a cucumber, zucchini or jicama spear
  • Plain baked pita chips with hummus, salsa, refried beans or mashed avocado
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