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

  • 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.