New guidelines on how much toddlers should eat and drink

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New guidance for childcare and health professionals about portion sizes for one - to three-year-olds has been published by an independent group of leading nutritionists and child health experts.




The Infant and Toddler Forum (ITF) has drawn up the guidelines in response to a lack of information for early years workers and parents on how much toddlers should eat and drink.


Its aim is to reassure parents who worry that their child is not eating enough and dissuade them from forcing young children to eat more than they need to, as well as provide advice on how to limit the intake of high calorie foods in the wake of the rise in childhood obesity.

The guidance differs from previous advice in that it recommends a suitable range of portion sizes for each of the five food groups described in household measures that can be used as a guide when serving food and drink to toddlers.

This will ensure that their energy and nutrient needs are met: for example, three to six heaped tablespoons of cornflakes for breakfast, or three to ten small grapes, as a snack.

In addition, NICE and the Department of Health recommend a daily supplement of vitamin D for all one to three-year-olds.

The portion size ranges were developed using information from two major surveys of children’s diets, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) for one-and-a-half to four-year-olds.

Dr Atul Singhal, professor of Paediatric Nutrition at the Institute of Child Health and chair of the Infant and Toddler Forum, said, ‘Half of British children aged two to three are now overweight or obese, and given most excess weight is gained by the age of five in 91 per cent of girls and 70 per cent of boys, it is vital to get feeding right in the pre-school years. We know that in the UK adult portion sizes have increased dramatically within the last 20 years, and guidance that can help parents and carers offer young children appropriate amounts may help in our fight against childhood obesity.’

Judy More, paediatric dietician, who led on developing the guidelines, said, ‘Our new guidance provides portion size ranges rather than specific amounts, because how much toddlers eat varies widely from day to day and meal to meal. The factsheet provides realistic advice for anyone feeding toddlers. The ranges address the fluctuating appetites of growing children and take into account the foods parents and carers actually offer.’

Last year’s nursery food review reported a shortage of guidance for nurseries on portion sizes for children from one-to-five-years-old.

A survey by the forum last year found that only 12 per cent of healthcare professionals surveyed were able to answer a question on toddler portion size correctly. A separate poll of parents last year for the ITF found that nearly 80 per cent of parents had never received guidance about portion sizes.

  • For more information,  and to download the guidance for free visit

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