Should we feed all kids the same amount?
It sounds nice, and it’s easy, to dole out the same amount of food to our sons and our daughters, especially if they’re close in age.
But what if we’re doing it wrong?
Should we be doing what is easiest – or what is best?
Men and women have different needs – and so do boys and girls, especially as they reach their teens and go through puberty.
Boys and men generally need more food and will almost always need more calories as adults.
My son is tracking to be six foot six. As an adult, he’s likely to end up weighing somewhere around 200 pounds and will need about 3000 calories a day – just to maintain his weight.
My partner’s daughter, on the other hand, will probably end up around five foot five, needing about 2000 calories a day as a grown woman, just 2/3 of my son’s needs.
I might be comparing apples and oranges here But a five foot five man (same as my partner’s daughter) would need 200 calories more than her, all else being identical.
If she ate the same amount as either a man her size, or as a man much taller, she would grow wider over time. Much, much wider.
Eat extra calories a day, you’ll get fat
This isn’t rocket science.
I did a lot of sport during my teens and twenties. As a rower, I was training nearly 40 hours a week. I was very active.
Then, when I retired from rowing, I got chubby. I watched my diet carefully, but no matter what I did, I struggled with my weight.
And I’ve struggled ever since.
Here’s the hard truth: men and women – and boys and girls – need to eat differently. According to our needs, not our wants.
I’d argue the sexes need to eat from different sized plates, even. And we need to start the habit right from childhood.
We’re that different.
How to feed your daughters
I’m a feminist. I’m also a scientist.
While it’s nice to say that women and men should be treated the same, and receive the same treatment, it just doesn’t hold water when it comes to food.
If we receive the same amount, women will put on weight much much faster. We have different bodies, and it won’t do women good to eat the same amount as most men do.
Our portions and calories must depend on body size.
Guidelines for avoiding fat kids
Feed according to need. Give your kids the food they need, not what they want.
If you have a child who is going through a growth spurt, they’ll need a little more.
But servings should not be the same. Not unless you have twins.
Limit food to meals only. Don’t offer snacks outside mealtimes.
Limit junk food. This is a no brainer. Limit junk, for all kids.
Limit treats to set days. Friday is our “treat day”. After school we head to McDonalds and get an ice cream or a frozen Coke – the kids can choose. But treats the rest of the time are limited.
Don’t serve food “family style”. Serve meals in the kitchen, and have an adult serve the food and control the portions.
No “seconds” for girls unless you have an athlete on your hands. If you do have an athlete (which means they’re training HARD 20+ hours a week), make it clear that they will have to reduce their intake when they cease training, and may need professional guidance in doing so.
Smaller plates for girls may be an option. Appetizer-sized plates may be an option for getting portions under control.
If kids are genuinely hungry offer an extra sandwich AFTER meals or raw sliced vegetables, NOT treats or packaged foods, which can be high in sugar. You’ll soon figure out whether it’s genuine hunger or not!
Educate your kids on sensible portions, healthy foods, and what a balanced meal looks like. There are some great resources online.
BMI calculator – work out what you should weigh.
BMR calculator – work our how many calories you should be eating.