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According to new research from leading health and nutrition experts, the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) many parents are giving their toddlers too much food. The research which surveyed 1,000 UK mums and dads revealed that 79% of parents are regularly giving bigger than recommended portion sizes to their pre-schoolers with portion sizes often close to adult sized meals. With childhood obesity on the increase, experts are calling for parents to rethink their children’s portion sizes in a bid to reduce the amount of food children are offered.
Don’t make big portions the norm
Gill Harris, a child and clinical psychologist, and a member of the ITF said “larger portions form our acceptance about what is an appropriate amount to eat and this becomes the norm. In other words, how much you offer often determines how much your child will eat and habits learned in early life generally tend to persist.“
The research discovered that parents are also giving their little ones too many treats and sugary drinks. The recommended portion size of crisps is 4-6 crisps however more than a third of parents were offering their child the whole packet. 65% of parents routinely offered their children too much squash or fruit juice (100-120ml is recommended) which frequently is giving children more sugar than their recommended daily allowance.
Toddler portion sizes
The Infant & Toddler Forum have developed a really useful illustrated guide on child portion sizes which is really interesting. The guide shows how much food is recommended for children aged between 1 and 4. I found the guide to be a real eye-opener discovering how much food is recommended for children of my son’s age.
Having looked at the guidance, I’m shocked to see that I am offering larger than recommended portions to my three year old, Olly. Over the last week we have been looking at the size of the portions we have been giving to Olly for dinner to see how it totted up and we have been offering him larger portions.
As a Mum, I’m constantly battling the ‘getting my child to eat’ versus ‘am I giving him a healthy and balanced diet’ without worrying about his portion sizes. I find that when I try and give him new foods to try, he will pick and sometimes refuse it whereas if I offer him food that I know he likes, he will eat a really good sized portion. However, Olly knows when to stop. He knows when he is full and isn’t afraid to push a plate of food away. He is even known to refuse a yogurt or chocolate buttons (as a treat) later in the day if he’s still full.
Children don’t have the emotional connection with food like adults do. They don’t worry about finishing their plates or the food going to waste, as Parents we need to ensure we don’t guilt children into eating food and only offer them suitable portion sizes.
The #rethinktoddlerportionsizes campaign is really interesting and I would urge any parent to take a look at the user-friendly free guide to portion sizes to find out if your little ones portion sizes can be adjusted to help protect their future in the fight against obesity.