Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Portion Sizes and Empty Calories

So I was feeling the need to get on a little soapbox here. I'm certainly not a perfect parent, far from it. I'm also not so great with the portion control on my plate... It's hard work and sometimes that extra cookie or 5 "mysteriously" end up missing as I stand over them at about 9:30 at night. 

That said, I want to stress that it's not maintaining the perfect balance every day that's important... but more knowing how you stack up over time. This is especially important with kids and all of the snacks and special treats they get. And it's not just at home- it's all over. It seems that there is always a reason for cake and/or a special treat. 

I thought it might be helpful to break it down in what I've seen a typical day could look like for a preschooler... I'm just going to include the empty calories here- essentially the "junk food"- (Calories are rounded)

9:30- playdate- 2 doughnut holes and a "juice" like drink: 200 calories
12:00 lunch- "fruit" snacks- 80 calories
3:00- snack- Goldfish crackers- 120 calories (Ok there are a few OK things about Goldfish- they are a source of iron and some B vitamins, but for the most part they are pretty nutritionally void.)
4:00- Dumdum lollipop at the dry cleaners- 25 calories
7:00- after dinner- two "fun size" candy bars- 140 calories.

Now obviously all of your days don't look exactly like this, but I think it's easy to lose sight of the big picture... I know I do. In this example this preschooler had 565 "empty" calories. A preschooler needs approximately 1000-1600 calories. This means more than half of your child's daily caloric needs can very easily be coming from foods with little or no nutritional value.  The current recommendation is limiting these foods to 8%-20%. No easy feat in a world full of parties, play dates, prepackaged snacks and fast food chains. 

The solution? Think about the day, or even the week. Go for more nutrient dense choices for you and your kids- for most meals and snacks. Try smaller portions of the "junk" foods. And make it fun. In the pictures below I gave my kids teeny tiny ice cream cups with sprinkles. They loved it and really didn't think twice about not getting enough. You can also offer to bring healthy snacks to play dates and parties. And finally, plan ahead. I've found many of my poor food choices come in a pinch. Have heathy snacks and desserts ready to go!

Send me your suggestions and concerns... I'd love to hear from you all!

Happiness & health, 

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