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How to Feed Your Family and Not Worry About Portion Sizes

Written by Katie Maxey, MS, RD, CHES

TV and magazine diet and diet medicine ads promise fast weight loss. Many of these plans even tell you what you “should” and “should not” eat. Diets encourage cutting portions by measuring or using the size of your palm as a guide. Limiting portions may leave your family frustrated, hungry and not satisfied. 

You can feed your family without worrying about portion sizes. Change your focus from how much everyone eats to helping everyone come to the meal hungry (but not too hungry). Follow these tools to help your family tune in to their bodies and decide how much to eat.

Make meals and snacks a priority

If you are concerned about weight and eating the right portions, you may skip meals to eat fewer calories. However, studies show that skipping meals can cause weight gain. Make meals and snacks a priority throughout the day. Aim for breakfast, lunch and dinner with one to two snacks in between, if needed. Take a look at the day and see which meal or snack your family is not making a priority. If it’s breakfast, for example, your family may want to eat something small just to get in the habit of eating. Worry less about the actual food eaten and more on making eating a priority. 

Plan ahead 

Have you ever left work, realized you need to make dinner, but had no idea what you have at home? You may decide to run through the drive-through, order a pizza, or quickly throw a meal together. This can add to the stress and guilt about choices you make for your family. Planning ahead takes the stress out of dinner. And you are more likely to be successful with planning a balanced meal that leaves your family feeling satisfied. When you begin to plan meals, start small. Meal planning does not mean you have to cook a meal from scratch. You can plan for when your family goes out to eat, orders a pizza, and prepares meals at home you already know how to cook.

Balance your plate

Fad diets and weight loss programs tend to focus on foods that you “should” or “should not” eat. When you have something that you “should not” eat, you may feel guilty or overeat. Focus more on creating balanced meals and less on what you can’t have. Being able to include all foods will take away the shame and guilt of eating. This means your family can have macaroni and cheese! Aim for a protein, grain, fruit and vegetable with most meals. A balanced plate will help everyone feel physically and mentally satisfied.

Pay attention when eating

We eat on the run or while doing other tasks. If your family members watch TV or play on the computer while eating, they are less likely to pay attention to their bodies and what they are eating. This can cause them to overeat and enjoy their meals less. Try limiting distractions while eating. Everyone will be more in tune with how hungry they are, how food tastes, and when they start to become satisfied.

Once you begin practicing these tools, you are more likely to eat the right amount throughout the day. Start small by focusing on one change at a time. Once it becomes a habit, try making another small change. Remember, eating should be pleasurable experience, not something to avoid or dread. So say goodbye to fad diets and weight loss medications. You and your family can enjoy eating and still eat the right amount! 

This article was written by staff who are apart of Brenner FIT (Families in Training). Brenner FIT is a pediatric weight management program at Brenner Children’s Hospital that helps families create healthier lifestyles together. Brenner FIT offers free cooking, nutrition and parenting classes. Visit BrennerChildrens.org/BrennerFit for our current class listing.