It is important to keep a healthy well balanced diet for young children for their health and well-being. It is advised to ensure children eat from all four food groups everyday to maintain the nutrients they need.
However, a huge factor is portion control! This is just as important, if not the most important part for a healthy, well balanced diet. It can be easy to think the more they eat the better, overfeeding can be harmful and have some lastly effects, for example, obesity or diabetes.
It can be difficult to understand the correct portions for some foods, especially taking into consideration the size, age and personality of the child.
The appetites of children can vary considerably from day- to- day, meal-to- meal and from child- to- child. Their appetite can be influenced by age, gender, activity level, growth spurs, puberty and whether the child is unwell or recuperating from being ill. There are no specific recommendation on how much a child should be eating, however this is just a guide.
This chart is a useful guide for portion control: (Portions and Serving Sizes – HealthyChildren.org)
Some top tips to support meal times:
- Gradually increase portion sizes as the child grows older.
- Avoid over filling plates as this can be off putting for younger children particularly for fussy eaters.
- Ensure that the proportions on the plate are correct.
- Offer small portions to begin with and allow second helpings if they eat it all.
- Remember that second helpings should still be nutritionally balanced, so ensure that they include food from each food group and not just the food group/s that children prefer.
- Offering second helpings of the vegetables, salad or fruit is a good idea to ensure your child gets plenty of vitamins and minerals but not too much energy.