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.

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Further Reading

  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Sugar is everywhere, and the trouble is, a lot of the sugar we eat can be hidden in the food we buy – and often in foods we wouldn’t expect! It is no secret that a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet is essential for toddlers’ growth and development, and this includes keeping a close eye on their sugar consumption. The question of just how much sugar is healthy for young children to consume is one on many parents’ lips. Our guide below aims to demystify sugar consumption and provide tips and advice on how to keep your child’s sugar intake within the recommended amounts.
  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Nothing describes a rollercoaster more accurately than the early months with your newborn baby. With the rush of love and amazing bonding experience that many new parents feel also comes numerous unknowns and challenges which can cause high levels of anxiety. Not always having the answer or being unsure of where to look for trusted information can naturally leave some parents feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Vegetarian and vegan diets have become increasingly popular over the past few years, with more and more parents raising their children on a plant-based diet. Toddlers have high-energy needs and small stomachs, so it is important parents know how to ensure their child gets all the nutrients needed for healthy growth and development. The Infant & Toddler Forum are here to help with practical tips and advice for parents considering a vegetarian or vegan diet for their toddler.