What is the correct serving size for my child?

By Aug 24, 2022 Tips for Kids

Wondering how much food your child should be eating? Read on to learn more from UAE-based pediatric dietician, Jordana Ventzke, on the difference between serving and portion sizes and how much is too much when it comes to children eating. 

The million-dollar question: how do I know if my child is eating enough and how much should I be offering?

In order for us to correctly answer this question, we must first understand the difference between serving size and portion size.

What is the difference between serving size and portion size?

Serving size is how much is put onto the plate, and the portion size is how much we should be eating, depending on age.

What is the recommended portion size for children?

For children, there is no set, recommended portion size. It is important for us as parents to allow children to decide how much they want to eat, to maintain their innate ability to read their body signals and focus on mindful eating. We want to encourage our children to always listen to their bodies. 

For younger children, remind them what it feels like to be hungry. For example, I like to go down to their level, knock on their tummies and ask if their tummy is making a noise. But remember to close this statement at the end of a mealtime by doing the same thing – only now knocking on their tummy and asking if it’s being quiet.

What is the recommended serving size for children?

In terms of serving size, always start small – especially if the food is new or one that your child is still learning about. On average, your serving size should be 1 tablespoon of each food group on offer per year of age. For example, if your child is 4 years old, you will offer 4 tablespoons of rice, 4 tablespoons of mince and 4 tablespoons of broccoli. If you know there are some foods that your child always eats more of, then you can offer slightly more – but don’t overdo it from the get-go of a meal.

Smaller options make mealtimes less stressful and less overwhelming. For context, imagine being served up a massive helping of food at a friend’s house. We as adults can cognitively comprehend what we need to do. But for a child, they become anxious which shifts them into their stress nervous system and they end up with little or no appetite.

Remember that just because it is served up does not mean that they have to eat it all. Similarly, they can ask for more 10 times over if they really want to!

Take the pressure off both yourself and your child by remembering that they do not need to eat a certain amount. It will encourage better eating habits in the long-term.

Note: If your child is not growing well, or weight gain has slowed or stalled, it’s recommended that they be assessed by a dietitian or healthcare practitioner.

Read more: 6 tips for expanding your child’s palate

If you are interested in hearing more from Jordana on all things child-friendly eating, check out our range of articles available as part of our ‘Tips for Kids’ guided series. Plus, our new recipe range features plenty of helpful hints to ensure family eating is a fuss-free and enjoyable experience: learn more about the range here.