Parents fuel obesity epidemic by feeding children adult-sized portions

Parents are being warned not to over-feed their children after research found around one in 10 regularly serves up adult-sized portions of popular meals.

In a survey of 1,000 parents, The Infant and Toddler Forum (ITF) found that 79% of children aged one to four are frequently given more than the recommended portion size for their age.

The study found that as many as 1 in 10 parents are feeding their young children adult sized portions of popular meals like spaghetti bolognaise and chicken nuggets and chips.

According to the study’s authors, many parents are unaware of the health consequences of feeding their children too much too often, and often don’t realise that packaged food, like packets of crisps or ready meals are packaged in adult-sized portions.

Interestingly, the survey also found that 73% of parents said they were worried about their children eating too little, while only 25% of parents had worries that their child might become overweight, suggesting that the trend towards overfeeding may stem from oparents’ concern that their toddlers aren’t eating enough.

Gill Harris, Child and Clinical psychologist and member of the ITF, warned of the dangers of overfeeding young children.

“Most toddlers are naturally better than older children and adults at regulating their food intake,” she said. “They usually only eat what they need and don’t overeat.”

“However, portion size is critical. It’s one of the main ways in which, as parents, we can inadvertently override children’s self-regulation systems.”

“Larger portions form our acceptance about what is an appropriate amount to eat and this becomes the norm. In other words, how much you offer often determines how much your child will eat and habits learned in early life generally tend to persist.”

The research also showed that 65 percent of parents routinely offered too much squash or fruit juice, and 24 percent of parents gave children a whole pack of jelly sweets as a treat (three times the recommended amount).

Meanwhile, more than a third (36 percent) of parents also admitted they use food or drink as a way of calming children down when they are upset.

To find out more about the recommended portion sizes for your toddler, visit the Infant and Toddler Forum for a full breakdown.