Guidance on portion sizes to help achieve a healthier nation

The Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) supports the recent advice from the Chief Executive of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie, who has said that parents should consider giving children smaller plates at meal times to reduce the amount of food they eat.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Selbie said that he wanted to help families make better choices with simple, practical steps such as exercising together or giving smaller plates to children.

Judy More, paediatric dietitian and member of the ITF, commented: “It is clear that families need more support to make better choices. For example, research carried out by the ITF, showed that 77 per cent of parents have never received clear advice about toddler portion sizesand only 16 per cent of parents answered a question on toddler portion sizes correctly.ii

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 to offer their child they serve toddlers whatever food and portion sizes they consider suitable. Large portion sizes, particularly of energy-dense foods, are one of the key contributing factors to obesity in children. Parents/carers may also exacerbate the problem by insisting their toddlers eat more food when they have clearly indicated they have had enough.

The ITF offers evidence-based resources and tools to support families such as the award-winning Portion Sizes for Children 1-4 Years Factsheet and the Tot It Up app.

The Factsheet is a practical, visual guide on how much food and drink to offer. It aims to reassure parents on recommended portion size ranges and allowing toddlers to eat to their appetite.

The Tot It Up app provides a personal analysis of a toddler’s daily – or more importantly, weekly – food intake compared against current recommendations. Parents and carers can input details of what meals, snacks and drinks a toddler has consumed, as well as the amount of physical activity he or she has done, to receive a personalised analysis with advice on improving diet and physical activity.


i. Who’s feeding your toddler?’ OnePoll on behalf of the Infant & Toddler Forum, 2010

ii. Online poll by the ITF in 2010 asked “How many table spoons of baked beans in tomato sauce is about the right amount to offer to a toddler?” Responses as of 12 October 2011. Out of 62 respondents, 10 gave the correct answer.

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Further Reading

  • 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.
  • Encouraging toddlers to keep physically active will help them to develop movement skills, stay a healthy weight and keep a healthy heart. No matter the weather, we have fun activities which will keep your toddler active and entertained this Easter!
  • Pregnant women are given lots of advice surrounding healthy eating and lifestyle, but this is often based on old or outdated information. There are so many myths and misconceptions floating around that it can be difficult for mums-to-be to tell fact from fiction. Here are our tips and guidance, so you can feel confident about having a healthy pregnancy.