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Portion Sizes for Kids! How Many Servings should they be eating?


Good morning!  I need to share more of my emails with you, as many of you might have the same question.  So today’s questions comes from reader, Kim, who is concerned about her kids eating too much!


Hi Amy.  I love your blog and spend lots of time there picking up ideas and advice.  I think we’re doing a decent job feeding our twin boys healthy food but we’re having some trouble with portion control.  They are bottomless pits … always asking for more and more.  They are on the husky side and I want to make sure we don’t get out of control.  Do you know of any convenient guidelines for portion for hungry three year old boys?  If I felt more confident in the right portion size, it would be easier to say no to requests for seconds and thirds!

Thank you!



Hi Kim,

I may have different opinion than some health educators because I truly feel that kids are so different, with different appetites, and growing at different rates.  So, my bottom line philosophy and advice is to not monitor how much they eat or how many servings they have. In our house, I teach by the principle that if half their meals are fruits and vegetables, no matter how big, then the meal will be balanced and appropriate for that child.  Does that make sense?  So, my 13 year old can have as many rolls’ as he wants for dinner (which is usually a ton), but he always has to balance each roll with two servings of veggies.  So for another roll, he better have two more servings of veggies. Trust me, the kids can’t eat as many fruits and vegetables as they need to in order to eat as many rolls’ as they’d like.

I like this approach because it doesn’t limit them if they are hungry, but it does fill them up on low calorie, high nutrient foods.  It’s a hard principle to implement in the beginning, and there is a lot of resistance, AND it’s hard to have fruits or vegetables at every meal, but it teaches them about balance, helps them eat enough, without overdoing it on calories, and definitely helps them to be healthier

myplate meal idea

Natalie Monson

I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.

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Yay! I’ve wondered this, as my boy will eat forever if I let him. This is probably one of the biggest questions I have about feeding my kids. Thanks!!!

I don’t do this every dinner but if we have time I make my kids eat in “courses” starting with salad. This takes the edge off their hunger before they load up their plates with main course.

I love your approach! We do basically the same thing. I find that for my bottomless pit boy, it also helps to start with small servings and have him wait just a bit at the table before going back for seconds. Sometimes it takes a bit for his brain to catch up with his stomach!

Hooray Kim! I will try to start posting more answers to questions!
Mindy: Thanks for pinning!
Mary: great idea!
Cathy: Me too! I have to let my stomach catch up to my brain all the time!

Hi all good suggestions here. I would also encourage them to eat as much fruit and veg as they can without limiting it. Pausing before going up for seconds is great as it can take the brain 20 mins or so to find out your full. In this 20 mins its a great way to chat and catch up with everyone day. I think it’s no harm to remember the table manners our mothers taught us chew every mouthful, don’t talk with your mouth full and pause between every fork full. If we slow down and enjoy our food we are less likely to over eat.

We really struggle with portion sizes in my house. My daughter doesn’t eat enough so, even though I keep her portions small for lunch, there’s so much that comes home.

My son (7) would eat 2 to 3 times what he should if we let him. He looks as if we never feed him, and the additional food he asks for is always healthy food so I cautiously tend to give him a little more. I want to teach him to eat until he is no longer hunger because one day that crazy metabolism will slow down.

I’d like to mention that kids should enjoy the fruits/vegetables you are serving and they should not be forced to eat them. According to Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility it’s the parents job to decide what and when to eat while it’s the kids job to decide if and how much to eat. Mealtime shouldn’t be an argument. Some kids do well with encouragement of eating/trying more fruits/vegetables (especially after age 6) but don’t turn it into a battle of wills.