Health & Math: Decreasing Portion Sizes


Did you know that helping your child understand the importance and relevance of math to everyday life can also help them understand health, nutrition and habits? Plus helping them understand this can reinforce it for you as a parent and help us maintain a healthy life style. One of the easiest things to do is to work with your child on portion sizes for meals. From this calculating calories, nutrition values and daily percentages using information on the products labels or off the internet allows your child to practice his/her addition, multiplication and use of percentages. Using the results of this your child can see if they have had a nutritionally balanced day and stayed close to the daily calories they are supposed to take in. If not you can discuss with them what they need to do to increase or decrease their intake.

Here is a problem for you and your child…

To lose 1 pound you need to reduce your intake over time by 3,500 calories.  A path you have decided to take begin losing a pound is to use smaller plates for dinner and reduce your portions. If you calculate you reduce 125 calories from each days dinner how long would it take for you to lose 2 lbs? The solution follows the Tips to Decrease Portion Sizes.

Tips to Decrease Portion Sizes (adapted from USDA Fit School Newsletter Oct. 8-14, 2012)

  • Use smaller plates. An 8 inch plate is more than large enough and after some time you can work down to a 6 inch dessert plate. By using a smaller plate you reduce the temptation to put more on your plate since it looks fuller.
  • Snack or Graze through the day on 1/2 cup portions of fruits and vegetables. Doing this usually helps you eat less at lunch and dinner and to have less cravings.
  • Never eat from the package! Remove the quantity suggested on the label and put it into a bowl or plate. This is a good reminder for me since I tend to eat the whole 2.5 serving popcorn bag, or well more than the 1/2 cup of cereal or ice cream recommended.
  • Avoid eating while watching TV, reading, surfing the web or playing video games. We have a tendency to eat unhealthy foods and too much when doing these activities. If you still decide to eat while doing these activities eat raw fruits and vegetables
  • Use measuring cups to serve and portion your food.

…and Now the Problem Solution

  1. 2 x 3,500 calories = 7,000 calories (this is the total amount of calories that need to be reduced over time to lose 2 pounds)
  2. Divide 7,000 calories by the 125 calories reduced each day = 56 Days to lose 2 pounds.
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Filed under Improved Learning, Nutrition Education, Parenting

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