A new study has suggested that food given in correct toddler portion sizes can lower anxiety and prevent the risk of obesity.

According to research by Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF), advice on toddler portion sizes for 1 to 4 year olds is inadequate with 77% of parents stating to have never received guidance.

The daily calorie requirement for each child depends on size and activity levels, but without professional guidelines, it’s parents who decide the type of food and toddler portion size given. This can lead to toddlers being served large portions of food that are often dense in energy. On top of this, parents routinely pressurise children to clear their plates.

To reduce this recipe for childhood obesity the chief executive of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie, suggests using smaller plates. With a decrease in the amount of food consumed, the obesity rates of one in five children aged 4 to 5, and one in three children aged 10 to 11 will fall, alongside the threat of health related problems in adult life.

Portion Sizes for Children 1-4 Factsheet

An award-winning factsheet by nurses working in primary and community care provides some practical advice. It aims to reassure parents and ease the mealtime dilemma of whether their toddler is eating enough. In addition, a range of appropriate portion sizes are given, and parents are asked to let their toddler eat according to appetite. Signs that toddlers have eaten enough include:

  • Shutting their mouths
  • Turning their heads away
  • Pushing the spoon or plate aside
  • Refusing to swallow and holding food in their mouths
  • Spitting food out
  • Screaming or crying
  • Gagging or vomiting

To further encourage healthy eating habits, the factsheet also suggests toddlers aged 2 and under should not to be offered sweet drinks, confectionary, chocolate or savoury snacks. And even for those over 2 years of age, the recommendation is to limit these foods to once a week.

As an initiative to promote healthy eating habits in the developing child, nurses also recommend the downloadable app, Tot It Up. It provides parents with a personal analysis of a toddlers food intake compared against current recommendations. When using the app, often parents find their child is eating better than expected. This can then restore confidence in the parent and diminish the stress associated with mealtimes.

Portion Sizes for Children aged 1-4 is free to download from the Infant & Toddler Forum website, along several other healthy eating factsheets for toddlers.

To read full nursing practise article by Judy More visit: http://www.nursinginpractice.com/article/portion-sizes-children-aged-1-4