Plate & portion size for kids

08/06/2013 10:49 AM

08/06/2013 10:59 AM

Written collaboratively by John Eun and Paul Smolen MD

Plate and portion size turn out to have a lot to do with how much we eat. We all know that restaurant portion sizes, along with the average adult waist circumference, have gradually increased over the past 25 years. We know that adults tend to eat more when given larger portions of food; is the same true true for children? Do children consume more food when presented with larger plates? It turns out that the answer is “yes.”

A recent study in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, claims that dishware size influences a child’s self-served portion sizes and food intake, as well as other eating behaviors. The authors gave child-sized dishware to one group of children and adult-sized dishware, the surface area of which was twice as large, to another group of children during their elementary school lunch. The authors found that the children took and consumed more food when using adult-sized dishware.

In light of this research, I recommend that a child’s food be served on small plates or bowls at home and school. I also suggest that parents stop insisting that children “clean their plates” or eat every morsel of food they are served. Experts recommend a daily calorie intake for four to eight year-olds of 1200 to 1400, and for nine to thirteen year-olds of 1600-1800. Dishware size may affect a child’s daily caloric intake.

Eating small portions is a healthy habit, so we should encourage it. Help your child develop good eating habits now for a life-long healthy weight.

I welcome your comments at While you are there, check out the literally hundreds of podcasts, articles and now videos covering a myriad of pediatric and parenting topics. Until next time.

Smo Notes:


Dr. Paul Smolen has been practicing pediatrics for 32 years as an attending physician at Carolinas Medical Center, an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine-Chapel Hill, and a private practitioner.

To learn more about Dr. Smolen, click here.

DocSmo is a member of the Charlotte News Alliance, a consortium of local media partners.

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