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Eating Habits and Portion Size

DID YOU KNOW Since the 1950’s, the average size of a UK dinner plate has grown by 2 inches.

Over the years the amount we eat at each meal and as snacks has got much bigger.
This is part of the reason that more people are overweight.
It can be hard to know how much is enough for ourselves and our children to eat.
A healthy, balanced diet means not only eating the right types of food and drink, but also eating them in the right amounts.
How much a child needs will vary with age, body size and how active they are.

  • Toddlers tend to be very up and down in how much and how often they want to eat – some days seeming hard to ‘fill up’ and others eating very little – this is normal. 

    Try not to stress - keep offering healthy foods and set a good example yourself by eating well.

    If parents can stay calm and avoid persuading toddlers to eat when they are not too bothered - it tends to balance itself out.

    It can be tempting to offer your child foods you know they will eat and offer alternatives or extra snacks – but this can get in the way of your child’s eating instincts

    If your child is well and has bags of energy then they are likely to be getting it right for themselves.

    One of the most important lessons your child can learn during these early years is to listen to their body about how much or how little they need to eat.

    If you still feel worried you can contact our services on the details below for reassurance and support.

  • There are ways you can encourage your child to eat what they need and stop when they are full

    • Use ‘child sized’ bowls and plates -give small servings – about the size of their clenched fist
    • Let them eat at their own pace
    • Your child does not have to finish everything on their plate
    • Don’t present sweeter foods as a ‘reward’ or bribe

    Family mealtimes should;

    • Happen at a regular time
    • Be eaten together whenever you can. If you don’t have a table don’t worry but do try and sit together.
    • Make mealtimes TV and screen and phone free – this gives you the chance to notice when you are getting full and share family time


  • Drinking plenty of fluids is an important part of keeping well.. Drinking can help with portion control as it is easy to mistake thirst for hunger. Children need about 6-8 glasses to drink  a day (using a glass that takes about 150 – 200mls)

    There are so many drinks to choose from these days – it can be hard to know what is best for your children


    Tap water is the best of the best ways to keep ourselves and our children hydrated

    If children have been used to juice being added to water

    • Try gradually reducing how much you add.
    • Try using a new water bottle or cup to tempt them
    • You can always try putting a small amount of fresh fruit into water for added flavour


    • Milk contains valuable vitamins and minerals. For the first six months babies are entirely dependent on breast or formula milk.
    • From six months of age babies begin to include solids in their diet. It is important that from this time the amount of milk drunk is reduced. If not it will affect their appetite – as too much milk is as filling as a meal
    • Until babies are a year old - they should have breastmilk, formula milk or water to drink.
    • If you are formula feeding there is no need to use follow-on milks. By one year of age your baby can make the change over to full fat cow’s milk.
    • Between the ages of 1-3 little ones should have just over half a pint of milk (300mls) to drink a day – from a ‘free flowing’ cup.
    • From around 2 years children who eat a varied diet can have semi-skimmed milk.

    Many children and adults continue to enjoy milk and this is a good thing – but remember it is more of a snack than a drink

    Fresh Fruit Juices

    Fresh fruit juices contain vitamins and minerals that are good for us. They also contain a lot of sugars. A portion is 150mls (a small glass) and you should only have one portion a day.

    Fizzy Drinks

    Did you Know?

    Regular Pepsi contains 14 sugar cubes

    Ribena contains 13 sugar cubes.

    Many drinks - like juices, fizzy, milkshakes, smoothies and hot chocolates contain added sugar.

    Sweet and sugary drinks can easily push up our sugar intake.

    *insert graphic**

    Sugary drinks can also ‘confuse’ our appetite making us feel full when we are not, and making our blood sugars spike and then fall -leaving us tired and hungry

    It is important these drinks are just a very occasional treat. 

    Energy Drinks

    Often contain the high levels of sugar seen in other drinks. Alongside this they contain high levels of caffeine – often twice the amount found in a strong cup of coffee.

    This can cause many health and wellbeing problems including; high blood pressure, irregular heart beats, anxiety, hyperactivity and stomach aches.

    They do not provide any helpful vitamins and minerals - and are best avoided by everyone – especially children and young people.


Who Can Help?

If you are concerned about your child’s weight or eating habits and feel you need support then you can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

Alternatively you can go to see your GP to discuss concerns.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum. CLICK HERE

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