How big is a child’s portion: do you know?

Chips, jellybeans and broccoli – how much should your toddler or preschooler really eat?

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Do you know the correct portion sizes for your child? Do you know how much of each type of food is healthy for a toddler or preschooler?

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Quite likely not, according to new research: a poll of 1000 parents has found that 79% of children aged 1 to 4 are often given more than the recommended portion size for their age, and about 1 in 10 of us parents regularly serves up adult-sized portions to our little ones.

The poll, commissioned by the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF), confirms concerns that many of us parents could unknowingly be overfeeding our children simply by getting our child portion sizes out of kilter. Recently, the head of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie, said dishing up larger-than-needed portions is one of the ways children can end up overweight or obese. His suggestion was to give children their food on smaller plates at meal times; he said that was a “small example of common sense”.

But perhaps even more helpful is to know how much to put on a child’s plate – however small or big it is. 

So, the ITF has provided us with handy pictures (above) of the optimum healthy portion-size ranges for children aged 1 to 4 years.

As a general rule, the taller and the more active your under-5, the bigger their portion can be – within the healthy range. So, looking at the plates of thick-cut chips we’ve pictured above, a small or not-so-active child should have the portion on the far left (4 chips), while a taller, more active 1 to 4 year-old could have the plate on the far right (8 chips). 

And it’s the same for the cucumber: 4 to 10 slices, depending on height and activity levels. 

Bread, pasta, potatoes

A portion is about the size of your child’s cupped fist.

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Fruit and veg

A portion is about the size of your child’s cupped handful.

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Milk, cheese and yoghurt

A portion is about the width of your child’s 2 fingers.

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Meat, fish, eggs, chickpeas, lentils

A portion is about the size of your child’s palm.

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Cakes and sweets

The experts at ITF suggest we only give high-energy treats (sweets and snacks) “occasionally” and “in limited amounts”.

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This translates to 6 to 8 small chocolate buttons or 3 jellybeans per child. Or 3 squares of chocolate or 4 to 6 crisps.

So, what do you think of these portion sizes? Are they smaller (or bigger) than you expected? Do let us know in the comments below!

Photos: The Infant Toddler Forum

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