Want Your Kids To Eat Less? Try These Plate Methods


Now that nearly every man, woman, and child in America has eaten way too much at Thanksgiving, it’s natural for families to think about getting back into a healthier eating routine. Here’s a simple and remarkably effective way to help your kids eat less by following on the plate methods explained below

plate methods

A recent study from Temple University, published in Pediatrics, found that  when children in first grade were given adult-sized plates, they tended to serve themselves about 90 more calories per meal — about 50 percent more. Since a moderately active boy or girl aged 4 to 8 only needs 1400 to 1600 calories a day, that’s a big difference. The authors suggest that serving our children on plates that are more appropriately sized for children’s smaller bodies — and caloric needs — might help lower child obesity rates. A new study suggests that smaller plates is a particularly effective strategy to help extraverted kids eat less.

The Plate Methods for Kids

What your kids put on their plates matters, too, of course. The best scenario is if you offer high-nutrition foods on smaller plates. Try the following plate methods for kids.

Think of a plate as having four sections. The biggest section should be packed with vegetables, primarily non-starchy ones (think green!). The second largest section of the plate should be grains, ideally whole grains with plenty of fiber. The third largest section (a little less than a quarter of the plate), should be lean protein like grilled chicken, and the smallest section should be fruit. Then, add dairy in the form of low-fat cheeses, low-fat milk in the sauces, or as a glass of milk on the side. You can even purchase portion-control plates for kids at The Portion Plate and Portion Size Matters. For more information about the portioning guidelines, visit

Nutritionist Lisa R. Young, R.D., author of The Portion Teller Plan, always advises eating off of smaller plates — unless it is a healthy salad that you’re piling high. She has five of portion-telling tips to help your children to eat just the right amount of food at each meal.

1. Plate in the Kitchen

If your kids are old enough, have them plate out their food in the kitchen, rather than leaving big bowls of pasta and other bowls or pans of food right in front of your face as you eat. And if they’re young, do you it yourself — in the kitchen. But if the conversation is still flowing when the kids are done eating, that’s fine. It doesn’t mean the food needs to keep flowing too.

2. Eat Slowly

Encourage your kids not to shove food into their mouths as if it’s the last meal they’ll ever eat. Show them how to take time while eating. Pause between bites.

3. Chew, Chew, Chew 

Sometimes food is so tasty, we rush and swallow it before the food is fully chewed. Encourage your kids to savor every second of their eating experience! Help them learn to chew food slowly, observe the texture of the food, and enjoy the tastes.

4. Time Out: Whoa

Hang on…you want seconds already? Has the food you you’ve been eating even reached your stomach yet? Show your kids the benefits of waiting fifteen minutes before reaching for seconds.

5. Don’t Freak

If you try to decrease the size of your child’s plate, and they rebel, then start out with the regular sized plate but filling more of it up with vegetables. Don’t get mad by turning it into a battle including punishment. Eating should be one of the most pleasurable and health-inspiring activities your child indulges in!

Learn more about portion control and kids at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ website: KidsEatRight.

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