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Just Right: Restaurants Can Fight Childhood Obesity by Right-Sizing Kids' Portions

Just Right

Restaurants can fight childhood obesity by right-sizing kids' portions

Restaurants can help lower kids' risk of obesity by adopting these guidelines.

Finding a kids' meal that's not too big and not too small can be a struggle -- just ask Goldilocks. Some restaurants follow calorie guidelines for bundled meals (entrée, sides, drink) offered to kids up to age 13, but until now such guidelines didn't exist for single servings. RAND researchers, with an expert panel, developed single serving guidelines to help kids avoid eating too much when eating out.


When restaurants serve right-sized portions, kids can choose single serving items to build a healthy meal under 600 calories.

Mix and match 2 to 3 right-sized servings to stay under 600 calories.

  • Entrée = 300 calories
  • Side = 150 calories (No calorie limit on fruits and vegetables with no added sugars or sauces.)
  • Milk (unflavored) = 130 calories

Healthy meals don't include fries or dessert. If they are served, portions must be small to keep the whole meal within the calorie limit.

  • Fried Potato = 100 calories!
  • Dessert = 150 calories !

Current Portion Sizes Calories Matter

Portions in most restaurants are too large, pushing their calorie count over the recommended limit.

  • Entrée = 551 calories, 2X guidelines
  • Entrée = 459 calories, 1.5X guidelines
  • Fried Potato = 287 calories, 3X guidelines
  • Dessert = 361 calories, 2X guidelines

Calories Matter

Trimming restaurant portions is important because food prepared away from home accounts for almost one-third of the calories Americans eat. 32%

Adapted from "Kid's Menu Portion Sizes: How Much Should Children Be Served?" by Deborah A. Cohen, Lenard I. Lesser, Cameron Wright, Mary Story, and Christina D. Economos, Nutrition Today, Vol. 51, No. 6, November/December 2016, pp. 273-280, available at http://journals.lww.com/nutritiontodayonline/fulltext/2016/11000/Kid_s_Menu_Portion_Sizes__How_Much_Should_Children.3.aspx.

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