Hola chicos, knowing what and how much to feed our kids is not easy. I know many of you might be asking yourself the same question, “How much food is too much food for toddlers?”. Since having my girls I’ve always worried if what they are eating is what they need. With Bella I always worried if she was eating enough as she was a fussy eater. She was and still is very difficult with food. She is getting better though but it has always been a rollercoaster journey for us. I have always worried about her weight as she is very slim buy thankfully she has never been unhealthy. On the other hand, I have Sienna who is totally the opposite to Bella – she will eat the whole house! If we have a little human bin, I promise it will be her, LOL! I know it sounds awful but it’s true, 😉
Sienna really likes her food so be careful if you want to take something from her plate as she will fight until she gets it back. She will eat until the last portion and will probably ask for more. I really feel that she could potentially explode one day, LOL!
Knowing what are the correct portions sizes for her age (almost 2 years old) are really important for me at the moment as I really don’t want her to be overweight and therefore unhealthy. When I heard about The Infant and Toddler Forum (ITF) and their Tot it Up Analysis challenge, I was really eager to take part and find out what Sienna’s results would be.
Firstly, so you know a little bit more about ITF, they promote best practice through reliable, clear, evidence-based advice and simple, practical resources aimed at healthcare professionals, families and a wider range of stakeholders in early years and child health. Its resources and published outputs undergo external peer review by national experts to ensure the information is accurate, balanced and consistent with health priorities, in the context of current and emerging policy.
Early nutrition and its implications for later health are a public health concern and everyone’s responsibility. The ITF aims to work in partnership with other organisations, professional groups, commercial organisations and policy makers that share its mission, to ensure that better advice informs and influences practice and ultimately behaviour, so that all can benefit from a body of impartial, evidence-based guidance and best practice about feeding, healthy eating and development.
The ITF is launching the #rethinktoddlerportionsizes campaign to help take the guesswork out of how much is enough including a guide to the correct portion size range for children aged 1 – 4. Parents are expected to have all the answers and when it comes to feeding toddlers, it can be hard to know how much food to offer. These guides are practical, visual, user-friendly and evidence based.
A survey of 1000 UK mums and dads revealed that 79% of parents routinely offer portions bigger than the recommended size range for toddlers when offering popular meals, drinks and treats. It’s clear that guidance and practical advice for parents is lacking.
See the video below:
The survey, which involved parents looking at images of portion sizes, also revealed that more than 10% of parents usually serve their child close to an adult-size portion of spaghetti bolognaise or cheese sandwiches.
However, 73% are more concerned that their child does not eat enough. There was a tendency for parents to use food or drink between meals to comfort their children, with 36% of parents using this method to calm children down when they are upset. I must admit that I’m very guilty of this too as I think food is the only thing that will distract and comfort my girls. I will need to be smarter and find different distractions.
Also, check these numbers:
- 71% of parents routinely offer their child a bigger portion of crisps than recommended for this age group. More than a third of parents usually offer their preschool child a whole bag of crisps: this is nearly twice the recommended amount
- 65% of parents routinely offer too much squash/fruit juice, with 31% often giving portions that are double the recommended amount for children of this age.
- 61% of parents routinely offer their child too many sweets, with 24% of parents giving their child a whole pack of jelly sweets as a treat: this is 3 times the recommended amount
When we took part in the challenge I realised that we were not doing that bad but we do need to improve in a lot of areas. Apparently Sienna needs to drink more fluids. I thought she was drinking a lot but I guess I was wrong, so I will be offering more fluids more often going forward. I also realised that I’m not giving her Vitamin D supplements which is something that I will amend asap.
I must admit that when I started checking the portion sizes for her age group (1 to 4) I was really surprised to see that those portions were really tiny! Sienna is capable of eating a whole pack of crisps and not just 6 or 8 that were suggested. The same with cereals and bread. She can eat a whole slice of toast but she should eat just half. I will need to do a serious amendment at home and change her actual portion sizes for the the ones suggested in the ITF website.
The 10 tips for healthy toddlers below are suggested by the ITF:
- Eat together as a family and make mealtimes relaxed, happy occasions
- You decide which nutritious foods to offer but let your toddler decide how much to eat
- Offer foods from all five food groups each day
- Have a routine and offer three meals and two to three snacks each day
- Offer six to eight drinks a day
- Give vitamins A & D each day
- Respect your toddlers’ tastes and preferences – don’t force feed
- Reward your toddler with your attention – never give food and drink as a reward, treat or for comfort
- Limit: fried food, crisps, packet snacks, pastries, cakes and biscuits to very small amounts and sweet foods to four times a day and avoid sweetened fruit squashes, fizzy drinks, tea and coffee, undiluted fruit juices , whole nuts
- Encourage physical activity for at least three hours every day and about 12 hours sleep
I think we should be more careful of the portion sizes that we give to our kids. We need to try to avoid any tendency towards obesity and if for any reason we think we are going towards that direction we should stop. We need to encourage healthy eating for our kids. I highly recommend you to browse around their guide of portion sizes and if possible do the challenge. Get the most of this free service. You can find more about them on Facebook and Twitter and search for #rethinktoddlerportionsizes.
What do you think of this survey? Do you think you might be having this problem too? Could it be possible that you are feeding your child too much? What do you think about the portion sizes? Will you be keen to also register and take part of the challenge? Please leave me a comment below as I would love to read what you think.
*Disclaimer: I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not been paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have received a voucher in return for writing this post.
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I find it so difficult to know how much to give my son. He still has bottles of milk too so I don’t know how he would manage from breakfast to lunchtime if I gave him a smaller breakfast and no bottle! #KCACOLS
Veronica Lee says
Looking at this, I definitely overfed my boys when they were little! No wonder most kids these days are overweight!
Tracey Bowden says
I think I overfeed Olivia, possibly always have done. I didn’t realise how small their portions should be either, really interesting to see that I think. #kcacols
Cheryl @ ReimerandRuby says
Very informative post! My little girl is also a human bin, she eats a lot, more than his big brother can consume. I too am worried with her as I think she’s getting too much. I’m glad to read this post, I need to be more aware now of the type and portion of food I need to give to my kids. #KCACOLS
This is such a helpful post. I’ve only just started weaning so have a way to go before considering toddler sizes, but it’s such a valid point and one I (shamefully) hadn’t considered before. I know I’ll certainly be referring back to this post hun, Really helpful xx #KCACOLS
This is really interesting. We’ve just started weaning in the last few weeks so I’m only starting to find my way in this area #KCACOLS
becca farrelly says
This is so interesting as I have no idea what I should or should not be giving Mia! I know I give her too much pasta on her plate and have actively tried to reduce the amount. She also has 4 small snacks a day but I’m lucky that she doesn’t like sweets or chocolate so her snacks are normally fruit or a biscuit. Its so difficult as a parent to know what to do and to try and do the right thing. We are lucky that Mia is healthy and happy but these guidelines are so important in ensuring our children stay healthy!
IVe always went with shes eating (maybe not as much as id like) and she is still extremaly active. She isnt Ill or lying about the house lathargic. So she must be intaking enough food to run about and stay up like she does.
Great post though!!
my petit canard says
Franca, such a great post and initative to get involved in! Ive seen some things around childrens portion sizes on twitter recently and have become really interested in this area, as like your Sienna my little lady is easily able to eat quite a bit at times. Although she doesnt constantly eat and is more of a snacker, I have started to worry recently that the portion sizes I have been giving her may be too much. After reading this post I think I will need to make a few amendments too! Also, really good to know about the vit D as I wasnt aware of that either. Thanks for sharing this, really useful! Emily #KCACOLS
Nicole @ The Professional Mom Project says
Thanks for providing such an informative post. I’m surprised that they suggest vitamin A and D supplements. My son’s dr told us not to give him any vitamins even though he’s a very particular eater. I also didn’t realize that the portions should be so small. My son could eat a whole brick of cheese if it was sitting in front of him! #KCACOLS
Mouse, Moo and Me Too says
This is really informative – most days at nursery my eldest will pack away seconds or thirds of her main meal yet at home she barely clears a plate. I wonder if their portions are super tiny and mine are huge. I’ve recently started cutting them right down to eliminate waste but she would protest quite a bit if I only gave her 6-8 chocolate buttons or half a biscuit! I personally think there’s quite a big leap between the ages of 1 and 4 so a 4 year old will eat far more than a 1 year old. But still, this is an excellent guide, thank you. #KCACOLS
Joanne Mallon says
As the author of a book about toddlers this is my specialist subject! The main thing you have to remember is that your toddler’s stomach is about the same size as their fist. So if you look at their fist, you’ll see that’s pretty small. However, toddlers are very energetic so they will need feeding little and often to keep them going. Also bear in mind that their growth rate isn’t constant and will come in fits and starts – hence it feels like sometimes they will exist on fresh air, whereas at other times you can’t fill them up.
Try not to worry about it too much – it sounds like you’re a mother who cares about nutrition so I’m sure you’re doing fine. #KCACOLS
Wow this is so interesting, I reckon I’m feeding my two year old about the right amount which is reassuring! My six year old is another matter, he seems to want to eat non stop, and just toast! must try harder #kcacols
Really interesting to read what the recommended portion sizes actually are. I must admit, this is an area I struggle with. In Piglet’s case, getting him to eat at all can be a challenge, especially eating healthy foods as he is a very fussy eater, so I’m not so concerned with his portion sizes but more with what he is eating. When we were on holiday last week he basically lived on garlic bread, chips and ice cream. However, I have been trying to get him back into a routine of eating more healthily since we’ve been back. #KCACOLS
Jen @Practical, By Default says
This is a great post! So many times I worried my children were not eating enough and we are not heavy on sweets and junk. Add in food sensitivities and it is a never ending battle. Thanks for these images to help us see the portions 🙂 #KCACOLS
The Unsung Mum says
Yeah both mine are human dustbins and would eat all the time if I let them. They are also huge snackers so I really have to be careful what they eat. Looking at this I def give them both too much but I don’t think they eat it all…oh no…now I’m not sure…#KCACOLS
Mummy and the mexicans says
I’ve been struggling lately to get Emma to eat her meals, she’s become more and more fussy. Funny how she’s always willing to eat biscuits and sweet things, though! Normally she doesn’t eat huge portions anyway, so maybe her portions are okay, but at the moment she’ll barely eat a mouthful or two of whatever dish I serve her. And vegetables are even more difficult. I heard portion sizes should be the size of a child’s fist, so that’s quite a useful guide. She does need to drink more, I think, and eat more often. We don’t manage to fit in all of the 3 full meals plus 2 snacks every day. #KCACOLS
Claire at Tin Box Traveller says
This is really informative. I think my girls have a balanced diet but the portion sizes, especially for Tin Box Baby, are probably too big. Thanks for making me think Franca! #KCACOLS
I would definitely be the group that worries about my toddler not eating enough. This was really enlightening, I will be trying out the tips you mentioned. Thanks #KCACOLS
This has given me real food for thought (pun intended). My daughter has always been a difficult eater (refusing baby food, limited diet, very small quantities etc) but for the last year (she’s 2.5 now) we’ve just gone by the she either eats what’s offered or nothing. She is getting better slowly and sometimes surprises us in what she tries but still quite often she’ll eat nothing which is always a worry but she’s healthy and just naturally petite. These results are actually a relief because I think most of the time now she is eating an appropriate sized portion. I just need to be careful that when she does eat something she loves (cheese sandwich, red pasta etc.) I’m not so relieved I over feed her. #kcacols
Hi there. I often wondered myself what the appropriate portion size for a couple of nearly 5 year old boys would be. Apart from portion sizes it can vary immensely if they actually eat any of it. Even when it is their favourites. Sometimes they are complete gannets and sometimes they eat two mouth fulls and they are done. We always say: Look at them, do they look like they don’t eat enough? Do they not thrive and grow appropriately for their age? Yes they do. So what if they eat very little one and are complete gannets the next day. The worst thing you can do is force them to eat when they don’t want to or don’t need to. No healthy, normal child their age will starve themselves on purpose.
We have quite the relaxed attitude when it comes to meal times and food in general. Which probably is the reason why they will eat broccoli, they will eat carrots, they even eat black olives? #KCACOLS
Jenni - Odd Socks and Lollipops says
I worry that my daughter doesn’t eat enough, but reading this I actually feel better. She probably eats about right most days though I do offer her a bit much of some things #KCACOLS
Sarah- Arthurwears says
This is something I worry about a lot! Arthur is a very fussy eater – but not just that, one day he will eat LOADS and the next day he might eat a mouthful or two and that’s it. The one thing he will always have is cheese – in fact he won’t even entertain the idea of sitting down for lunch/dinner unless there is a babybel and a cheese triangle on offer. We def don’t get enough veg down him – I’ve even taken to blending carrots and cauliflower into cheese sauce with his pasta just to get some eaten!! #KCACOLS
laura dove says
What a great post, and SO interesting to see it laid out there like that! I have always let the children eat as much as they would like when it comes to healthy, home cooked food. When it’s a treat or something a little less wholesome, there are restrictions! But if my kids are asking for another round of broccoli I wouldn’t hesitate to give it them! #KCACOLS