Have you ever wondered how many servings of anything you should try to get your kids to consume in a day? Or what constitutes a serving? It's especially hard when you are serving something like soup, which my picky second son enjoys the most.
As a mom, I wonder about the best way to figure out if they're eating enough, or too much? Both kids from time to time seem to be constantly hungry, or full way too soon. I wonder if they're being creative at evading a meal that isn't their favorite by claiming they're full, or if they've actually had enough. I won't force them to finish what's on their plate- I figure it's their job to decide that they're done, and I don't want to plague them with a lifetime of overeating and related health problems. On the other hand, sometimes they seem to be hungry ridiculously close to the end of the last meal.
Enter the Canada Food Guide. I'm sure it's not perfect, and not without its' share of controversy, but this is a resource I turn to often, and as I am the meals maven, it's a very handy and useful resource to look to.
As an example in how to use this guide, I will think about how my second son ate today. His recommended foods are:
5 servings of vegetables and fruit
4 servings of grain products
2 servings of milk products
1 serving of protein.
Allow me to stop right here and tell you today was an atypical day. My fruit, veges, and dairy are getting low, so I'm definitely shopping tomorrow. I can tell you he ate more than enough grain products and (surprisingly, since peanut butter counts) protein. He only ate half the vegetables and fruits, mostly in the form of watered down juice. He had only about half his milk products today as well.
What constitutes a serving? Let's focus on fruit and vegetables, since most of us don't get or give enough. In his case, for vegetables and fruits he typically eats carrots and apples every day. A serving of those is about a half-cup each. Our apples this week are small, so I treat an apple as one serving, and a carrot cut up into strips or coins as about a half cup. Keep in mind, he needs 5 servings a day, so if we serve fruit or vegetables with every snack and meal, he meets his recommended servings.
A typical daily meal plan for him is this (don't judge me! He's so picky! I know he eats a lot of nutella!)
Breakfast: 1/2 c. milk + 1 slice of bread with nutella on it + 1 apple
Snack: 1/2 c, yogurt + carrot sticks and a water cup
Lunch: 1/2 c. of watered down apple juice + 1 slice of bread with peanut butter on it
Snack: Cheese String + carrot sticks or apple slices and a water cup
Dinner: whatever we're having
Bedtime snack: 1/2 c. milk + 1 slice of bread with nutella on it
I try once or twice a week to cook for dinner whatever he will eat, and the rest of the time cook whatever we all want to eat. Most of the time he'll at least take a taste, which is all I can ask for at this stage, and way better than he used to be. Dinner always includes vegetables and/or fruit as half our plate (his plate is divided), a small section for protein, and a slightly larger section for carbs. What he drinks for dinner is often water, but sometimes, if we're eating something with a high iron content, such as beef and bean chili, we'll serve dinner with juice so that the iron can be better absorbed with the added vitamin c.
If you don't feel like looking up what you should eat, here's what I should eat as a woman of almost 40. Feel free to compare your needs to mine. It's probably similar, as there are not that many changes in this age range until you hit 51. Men require 1 or 2 extra vegetable/fruit, grain, and protein serving.
Vegetables and Fruits: 8-10
If you're anything like me, chances are good you look at your prepared chicken thighs and wonder how many of those you should eat. The nutritional information on the back of the package gives you the 100g serving information, but it turns out that the Canada Food Guide says 75g is one serving. So how do you tell?
I make heavy use of our kitchen scale. I know, it sounds so geeky, but that's the only real way to tell, and I did marry a geek. Our eyeballs and stomachs usually tell us to eat more than we should, especially if it's really tasty and pretty. If you are serious about watching what you eat, you should definitely invest in one of these handy kitchen gadgets.
The other thing you can do is to input your recipe (exact amounts matter though, so take a picture of your packaging and nutritional info before you toss it) into My Fitness Pal. This website has a great recipe builder section where your favorite recipes can be stored, and you can just enter your recipe in your daily meal tracking. This also really helps keep track of where you're at in the day, so you can tell after dinner if you should splurge on something or just stick to apples and carrots.
Good luck to you as you navigate this tricky world of nutrition. Let me know what you're doing to figure out nutritional needs for your family, and how your meals compare to mine!