Portion Distortion: Portion Control Advice for Parents

Calorie consumption and expenditure is difficult to understand. It is incredibly hard to apply various, generalised numbers fed to us from varying sources to an individual child, especially when children weigh different amounts, are different heights, and some are more active than others. So, when it comes to limiting and controlling what our children eat, it can often be hard to calculate and manage their intake.

Overconsumption of food can cause numerous health problems such as obesity and heart issues.

If you want to check the number of calories in certain foods, visit http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/loseweight/pages/understanding-calories.aspx  for a useful guide and calorie checker on measuring how many calories are in common choices. For an official guide on calorie intake for children, please visit: http://www.nhs.uk/change4life/Pages/calories.aspx

We have compiled a few simple tips on how to manage portion control, making it easier to maintain consumption according to your child’s needs.

  • Don’t serve children large portions and do not expect them to clear their plates. If they often leave food aside, decrease the amount in which you serve up. Do not use desserts or sweets as a reward for finishing a full meal.


  • Try to make informed changes. Make sure to have a look at the NHS calorie counting guide: http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/loseweight/pages/understanding-calories.aspx to check how many calories are in commonly consumed foods and to check the differences in nutrition when changing to a healthier side or snack.


  • Dish out portions for your family; don’t leave bowls and dishes on the dining room table for them to help themselves.


  • ‘Me-sized’ meals – take into account that your 10-year old will eat less than you, but will need to eat more than your 6-year old! Level of physical activity also has a large part to play.


  • Remember to apply portion size control when dining out. Often restaurants provide child menus or even junior portions which are tailored to your child’s specific age range.


  • Avoid drinks high in sugar such as fizzy soft drinks and include fruit juice in your child’s diet occasionally. Water and milk should be the go-to options.


  • It is important to remember that you play a great role model for your children. If they see you plating up heaps of food, it does not set a good example!

As children grow, it is essential to alter their portion sizes. They may tend to be hungry when playing more sports, during a growth spurt or during different seasons where they will be more active.