Parents’ portion size puts toddlers at risk of obesity
A meal size guide for toddlers and children has been launched, encouraging parents to cut portion sizes as nutritionist warn children are at risk of obesity.
A survey of 1,000 British parents found that more than three quarters (79 per cent) of parents routinely give bigger than recommended portions to youngsters, the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) revealed.
ITF released an illustrated guide to portion sizes and a food tracker alongside its #rethinktoddlerportionsizes campaign, which is supported by 4Children, Family Lives and the Pre-school Learning Alliance. The campaign aims to educate families on appropriate portion sizes, whilst being warned of the dangers of over-feeding.
Gill Harris, a child and clinical psychologist from the ITF, said:
“Most toddlers are naturally better than older children and adults at regulating their food intake. They usually only eat what they need and don’t overeat.
“However, portion size is critical. It’s one of the main ways in which, as parents, we can inadvertently override children’s self-regulation systems. Larger portions form our acceptance about what is an appropriate amount to eat and this becomes the “norm”.”
As part of the study, parents were shown pictures of food and told to select the portion sizes they give their toddlers, as well as being asked how often they give certain foods.
36 per cent of parents use unhealthy food and drink between meals as a “pacifier” to calm children down, with 75 per cent ignoring warnings of potential obesity risks. This could also encourage young children to rely on food to deal with emotions in future.
Ironically, 73 per cent of parents are worried their children do not get enough to eat, admitted they routinely offered their child a bigger portion of crisps than is recommended.
Judy More, pediatric dietician and member of the ITF, told the Independent:
"We felt it was time to put out some clear information so parents feel more confident with what portions they are giving their children.
"A big part of this has been reassuring parents that they are in fact feeding their children enough, as this has emerged as a major concern for them. The portions we are suggesting date back to a time in the 1990s, when childhood obesity was not such a problem as it is now.
"We always say to parents, if your child is gaining weight safely and gradually, that is perfectly healthy and you should always allow them to eat to their appetite."
For dinner, ITF recommends up to five tablespoons of pasta or rice, or four tablespoons of mashed potato for children between the ages of one and four.
Due to their sugar contents, the guidelines also warns against giving toddlers too many raisins and cornflakes during the day, saying sweets should only be consumed “once a week”.
Reasonable portions of fresh fish and eggs are encouraged, whereas with meat, only processed ham, sausages and minced meat are recommended.