Award-winning baby and child nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed works with brands, celebrities and parents to share positive, evidence-based advice on giving children a healthy start in life.
It’s important for both adults and children to eat the right amount of food and drink. For children, you want to ensure your child is getting enough nutrients in their body, but you also want to avoid overeating and getting more than they need.
What is a child’s portion size?
It’s difficult to know what a child’s portion size is, as it depends on a child’s gender, age, body size and levels of physical activity. Portion size guidelines are just that – guidelines to give you an idea. Remember that all children are very different and some will have naturally smaller or larger appetites than others.
Tips to ensure your child is eating enough
- The best thing to do is try to feed to appetite – you decide what goes on the plate, but let the kids decide how much they want to eat. Sometimes taking the pressure off and giving children independence at mealtimes can make all the difference to how much actually goes in. Pressuring your child to finish their plate could also mean making them eat more than they actually need.
- Try to have mealtimes away from screens and other distractions. Eating in front of a screen can lead to us eating more than we need. If we eat mindlessly while distracted with something else, it can mean we are less likely to stop and recognise when we are full.
- A good way to get it right when it comes to portions is to allow your child to start learning to serve themselves. Shared buffet dinners can work well and give your children independence over their food choices too.
- If you’re worried that your child eats too much (or even too little), try offering smaller portions initially and offering a second helping if they are still hungry at the end. Remember that day-to-day and meal-to-meal, your child’s appetite is likely to change. This is normal and is another reason why it’s good to listen to their own appetite cues.
- Use an appropriately sized plate for younger children. Loading up adult plates can be a bit overwhelming and may lead to overeating too. Try to avoid encouraging children to finish their plate, and instead encourage them to tell you when they’ve had enough.