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Portion control

How much a child should eat is not something parents should totally control. Babies & toddlers quickly learn how to control their food intake to meet their energy needs for normal growth & development. This behaviour is also seen in younger babies when breast/bottle feeding. If they don’t each much food one day, they will compensate by eating more food or eating more of an energy dense food the next day. Parents shouldn’t use mealtime habits as a reflection of their food intake*, growth is a much better indicator, and as long as they are growing normally then this will identify whether they are eating enough, or not too much, food.

*It is important to relay this point to parents and ensure they are not forcing toddlers to eat foods as this can cause a vicious circle of food refusal, especially when desired foods are withheld (see fussy eating section).

Toddlers have small stomachs so they need regular feeding (but should avoid grazing). As a general rule of thumb for parents to follow, toddlers should have three meals a day plus a snack in between the meals.

HiPP Nutritionist Helen advising parents on recommended portion sizes for toddlers

Overweight toddlers

Excess weight gain may occur when toddlers are expected to eat everything they are given on their plate, so they learn to ignore their internal hunger cues and think they must eat everything they are offered whether hungry or not. Sometimes if they are forced to finish their savoury food and withheld a sweet dessert then this may become more desirable and (as they grow older) lead to over consumption of these sweet or fatty foods. It is important that toddlers are not forced to finish one course before they can have another.