Getting portion sizes right from a young age

Portion sizes are important during these early years as these formative years set the trend for healthy eating as children grow up. 
Overfeeding a child has found to be linked with childhood and adult obesity, asthma, gut prematurity and diabetes.

First Steps Nutrition advises that some children will eat more and some less, from meal to meal. 

For toddler aged children, some children may want ‘seconds’ and children should be allowed to eat healthy food to suit their appetite. Be led by your child and watch for indicators that they're feeling full. 

If you have a child that's growing well, but not finishing all their meals, there may be too much on their plate. Do not overwhelm your child’s plate with food, this can appear daunting and put them off wanting to eat at all. See if you can notice a pattern in the portion sizes they eat. 

For children, the amount they should eat depends on their size and age. 

As a rough guide, one portion is the amount they can fit in the palm of their hand.

  • Do be guided by them and when they are full, this encourages healthy portion sizes
  • Do let them decide when they have finished
  • Don’t use phrases such as, “eat up” or “please finish what’s on your plate”

How to work out portion sizes

Toddlers need a diet made up of foods from the four main food groups. A quick way to remember how many portions your child needs is, 5 5 3 2 a day.

This is the number of portions from each food group they need each day (in the right balance and portion sizes for their age): 

  • 5 starchy foods  
  • 5 fruit and vegetables  
  • 3 dairy foods
  • 2 protein foods (or 3 a day, if your child is vegan or vegetarian)