Parents urged to give smaller portions to children

Larger portions of healthy food also contribute to obesity problems

Parents are being urged to provide their children with child-sized portions as part of Safefood's campaign to tackle childhood obesity. 

Recent studies have found that infants over the age of two ate up to 40% more food when a larger portion was made available to them.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan of Safefood said: “It’s well established that for adults, we eat more food and consume more calories when we’re given bigger portions and we now recognise that this goes for children as well.

"There has also been a significant increase in food portion sizes over the past 20 years, this all contributes to more of our children nowadays carrying excess weight. What’s also interesting is that young children up to the age of two have good appetite control and only eat what they need, but older children lose this ability to know when they’re full.” she added.

Portion sizes over the past 20 years have increased significantly with takeaway's now 180% larger compared to the 1990s.

Oddly, even eating too much healthy food can be an issue as well. Dr Sinead Murphy, Consultant Paediatrician at Temple Street Children’s Hospital, said: “Surprisingly we are finding on our programmes that more than half the children who are presenting as seriously overweight are in fact eating what we would consider ‘healthy food’ but just far too much of it.

"We also know that the parents may feel they are doing the right thing for their children by filling them up with ‘good food’ when in fact they’re creating problems for them now and in later life," she added.

The message from Safefood is to encourage children to notice when they are full and to allow them to stop eating. 

Safefood’s tips for parents on reducing portion sizes for kids:

  • Kids need child-sized portions, not adult ones. So give them small portions of food on their plates to start with. If they want more, then give it to them.
  • If they say they’re hungry after a meal, offer them something nutritious like fruit.
  • Try to avoid have fatty and sugary snack foods freely available between and after meals.
  • Don’t pressure children to eat all the food on their plate and allow them to stop when they say ‘I’ve had enough’. 
  • For smaller kids, use plates and cutlery that match their size, not yours. 
  • Remember the proportions of food you offer during the day; they should be roughly one-third fruit and veg; one-third starchy foods like bread and potatoes; one-third dairy like milk, cheese and yogurt and one-third protein like meat and fish. 
  • Keep treats at a realistic level – a little and not every day.