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Child Portion Size

Children, Portion Size and Weight Control

By Dietitian, Lyndel Costain BSc RD

Young children can find it as difficult as adults to regulate how much they eat in the food-filled society we live in, according to a study from the University of Cornell, USA.

The researchers found that by far the most powerful predictor of how much food a young child eats is how much is put on their plate. Earlier studies had suggested that young children (pre-school age in this case) were naturally much better at regulating their appetite and food intake and ate pretty much to satisfy their hunger.

Dr David Levitsky who led the research said “We found that the more children are served, the more they eat, regardless of what they have eaten or had to drink previously in the day, including how big their breakfast was. We also found that the more snacks children are offered, the greater their daily food and calorie intake.” He added “these findings suggest that the onus for controlling young children’s weight must rest in the hands of parents and other caregivers.

Weight Loss Resources says…

It has often been said that young children are better than adults at automatically regulating how much they eat. But the studies this belief was based on were carried out in more controlled laboratory settings, not at home and at play centres, like this study. This meant that the children were more influenced by the factors that can make weight control tricky for everyone, such as big portion sizes, easy access to high calorie snacks and habit eating.

Of course young children need regular, balanced meals and planned snacks to provide the energy and nutrients they need to grow, develop and be active. But with levels of overweight and obesity rising amongst children of all ages (for example, the percentage of overweight children aged 2 to 10 years rose from 22.7 in 1995 to 27.7% in 2003), information that helps us to understand and then manage the different reasons that lie behind this increase, can only help the future health of our children. Getting back in control of portion sizes for children is as important as it is for adults.

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