Sunday 25 February 2018

So what exactly is the correct portion size for your toddler?

As new research shows that most children are eating far more than they need, Chrissie Russell asks the experts for their help in creating a foolproof parents' guide to breakfast, lunch and dinner

Toddlers are eating far more than they need, according to the latest research
Toddlers are eating far more than they need, according to the latest research

IF you're a parent for whom mealtimes are a daily headache, this week's headlines make for troubling reading. A new survey has revealed that around 80pc of toddlers are eating more than they should.

According to research released by the Infant and Toddler Forum, one in 10 parents gives their tot an adult serving of pasta, while one third of mums and dads are pouring out glasses of squash that are double the recommended amount.

And yet 73pc of parents are concerned their child is not eating enough throughout the day.

Is it any wonder we're confused by what our youngsters are putting away when we're frequently baffled by our own portion sizes? With one in four Irish children in Ireland classified as overweight or obese, we need to get a handle on it. So just what is a portion?



Puffed rice cereals should be no more than half a bowl or 15g while a bowl of dried cornflakes should measure between three and six tablespoons. "The healthiest choice of cereal is one where there is less than 5g of sugar per 100g and greater than 6g of fibre per 100g," says Orla Walsh, dietician at the Dublin Nutrition Centre.


The portion should be the same size as your toddler's fist. "But porridge made with oats and water is just carbohydrate," says Orla. "Try to include a protein, as well as adding milk, berries and nuts or seeds."


At breakfast or lunch, a toddler portion of bread is one medium slice of granary/white bread or half a bagel. Toddlers need starchy foods for energy, vitamins, minerals and fibre - oatcakes, breadsticks and toast fingers make healthy snacks, but stick to five a day. And be careful what you put on it - jam is high in sugar, peanut butter high in fat. One teaspoon is enough

Fruit juice

No more than half a glass (100mls). It's high in sugar so best diluted with water or avoided altogether in favour of water or milk instead.


One portion equals one boiled egg or two or three tablespoons of scrambled egg.



Should be roughly half an adult portion.


A portion is one triangle, one Babybel, one Cheese String or two to three tablespoons of grated cheese (roughly a match boz size ungrated or 20g). "Cheese is a natural source of calcium and protein," says Orla. But beware of salt content. "If you compare a lot of cheese to salt water, per 100g the cheese will have more salt. "

Baked beans

Three dessert spoons (80g)


One portion is a 125g pot of yoghurt or two 50g pots of fromage frais.


About two-and-a-half ladles. "Soup is a great choice since it hydrates too," explains Orla. "Why not choose a protein-rich option like lentil soup, pea and mint or chicken and veg?"



For a three to five-year-old a portion is about half a chicken breast (60g). A one to three-year-old will eat about two thirds this amount. Although remember, these are all approximations and will depend on the child's age, fitness and energy requirements.

"Because children's food needs vary from day to day depending on how active they are and any growth spurts they have, so it's impossible to say exactly how much food each child should eat," explains Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of human health and nutrition with Safefood. It's more important to offer small portions and more if they're still hungry than get bogged down in thinking they must devour 60g of chicken.

Chicken curry Around three to four dessert spoons (115g).


One portion equals two fish fingers, one small fillet of cod or salmon or one and a half tablespoons of tinned tuna.


A maximum portion of two dessert spoons of mash or five homemade potato wedges, no more than eight thick cut chips or half a baked potato. Remember potatoes count as a starch like bread, rice and pasta which should make up five portions a day. Shepherd's pie

Two large serving spoons (159g).

Homemade pizza

One slice (97g).


A toddler portion of pasta should be around two heaped serving spoons or approximately 80 grams Once cooked (remember that uncooked pasta often weighs half as much as it does cooked). If you're serving it asspaghetti bolognese add four dessert spoons (109g) of bolognese sauce.


Four dessert spoons of cooked rice (80g)


Two or three tablespoons of chickpeas, or lentils or kidney beans are all one portion of protein.



"Portion sizes are generally about half that of adult sizes," explains Tom Coleman of My Nutrition Ireland. "So half a banana, half an apple or nine grapes is plenty for one sitting."


Raisins and other dried fruits like apricots, dates and sultanas are high in sugar and, according to the BNF, "should be limited to meal times and to no more than one snack a day". They count as one of your five a day but a portion should be 20g of raisins, no more than three dates and three apricots.

Rice cakes

A portion is one or two rice or oat cakes. If having hummus as a topping, a portion is one or two tablespoons (and counts as protein).


"Once a day and the portion size for a child is about half a biscuit, three or four sweets or six to eight chocolate buttons," advises Tom Coleman.

"Keep treat foods out of sight and mind," adds Dr Foley-Nolan. "Our children are having too many of these foods, too often, and we need to cut them down to a more reasonable level."

Irish Independent

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