Department of Health report reveals there’s still a way to go in addressing toddlers portion sizes

Recent results of the Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children (DNSIYC), commissioned by the Department of Health (DH) and the Food Standards Agency, reveal a proportion of toddlers are consuming more energy in food than they need.

Together with research carried out by the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF), showing 77 per cent of parents have never received clear advice about toddler portions and only 16 per cent of parents answered a question on toddler portion sizes correctly, it is clear there is still more to be done to address and educate on toddler portion sizes.

Judy More, paediatric dietitian and member of the ITF, commented: “This DH report indicates that about 30 per cent of young toddlers, monitored during the study are in fact consuming more calories than they need. Nearly a third (31 per cent) of children aged 2-15 years are overweight or obese and over 90 per cent of the excess weight in nine year old girls and over 70 per cent in nine year old boys is gained before the child ever gets to school age. These statistics underpin the importance of focussing on education in early years nutrition if we are to avoid putting children at risk of obesity and other long-term conditions in later life. The number of calories toddlers need varies depending on their size and how active they are. When parents have no clear, accessible guidance on what sized portion is suitable for their child they serve toddlers whatever food and portion sizes they consider suitable. Often inappropriate high calorie low nutrient foods are served which toddlers tend to overeat. Parents/carers may exacerbate the problem by insisting their toddlers eat more food when they have clearly indicated they have had enough”.
“Large portion sizes, particularly of energy-dense foods, are one of the key contributing factors to obesity on children. The ITF aims to offer evidence-based advice to support families and has resources such as the award-winning Portion Sizes for Children 1-4 Years guidance which won first prize for the CPHVA/Unite Annual Professional conference best practice poster award.”

Portion Sizes for Children 1-4 Years is a free online resource that can be used as a practical, everyday guide on how much food and drink to offer infants to support them towards long-term health. It aims to reassure and equip parents with information that they are able to offer a balanced diet using these portion sizes and then allow toddlers to eat to their appetite.

The full Factsheet for practitioners, Portion Sizes for Toddlers 1–4 Years, were updated in line with the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition revisions [Sept 2012] on recommendations for energy intake in the UK.

Portion Sizes for Children 1–4 Years is available as a free download from


Notes to editors

The 2013 Infant & Toddler Forum Study Day for practitioners is taking place on the 31st October at The Royal Society of Medicine, London.

The Infant & Toddler Forum brings together an independent, multi-disciplinary team of experts and practitioners from paediatrics, neonatology, health visiting, dietetics, and child psychology, to share new ideas and to debate the latest thinking in infant and toddler nutrition. Best practice guidance on food and feeding for all young families is paramount for children’s health and wellbeing now and in the future. For more than eight years the Forum and its partners have strived to raise awareness and promote positive change in the field of toddler nutrition and feeding behaviour, with all guidance being in alignment with DH increased emphasis on early years intervention.

The Infant & Toddler Forum is supported by an educational grant from Danone Baby Nutrition. All resources produced by the Forum represent the independent views of the Forum with whom copyright rests.

Posted in News, Press ReleasesTagged

Further Reading

  • By Melanie Pilcher and Dr. Gillian Harris Establishing bedtime routines for toddlers and young children
  • By Dr. Gillian Harris, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Applied Developmental Psychology at the University of Birmingham and ITF member Most parents will struggle at some point to get their toddlers to eat certain foods. Is toddler food refusal a sign of an eating disorder. or is it merely a phase? In the run up to Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Gill Harris provides practical advice to help parents tackle fussy eating in toddlers.  
  • By Lucy Upton, on behalf of the Infant and Toddler Forum On behalf of the members of the Infant and Toddler Forum, I am proud to announce the launch of a new infant feeding educational programme, which includes practical resources for frontline healthcare professionals (HCPs) working with parents and infants.