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Toddler Portion Sizes

Author: Lottie Manns

Blimey, I think I overfeed my children. Anybody else constantly telling their kids to ‘finish that food’ or ‘will you just eat it all’? Seems perhaps there is a reason they never want to finish that giant bowl of pasta or only want a few mouthfuls of their casserole. Yep, kids need a lot less food than you think.

I guess it’s only right given how small their tummies are but the whole team seem to be guilty of giving their kids rather large portions. Leo recently demolished a whole burrito, three year old Lyra regularly tucks in to the same size plates as her mum and Molly can demolish a man sized bowl of pasta in minutes.

Obviously if your kids want to eat that amount of food that is absolutely fine but if they don’t then do not worry. I have spent far too long waiting for the girls to painfully finish their food but actually they probably didn’t need it at all. I’ve battled with them and torn my hair out wondering why they won’t eat their food. I’ve fretted that they must be hungry and tried to feed them all manner of things to get them to eat a more. I’m guessing a lot of you will be in the same boat as making sure our children are nourished is such an important thing.

However, the team are now all realising perhaps we got it a bit wrong. It seems that small portions are the way forward and apologies if team RMF are a bit late to the party on this one.

We’ve put together a handy pin to show you exactly how much your little one’s need to eat. I’ve said need as if they do want to eat more then that is fine. Obviously you don’t want them to overeat but I do think it is all relative to how much they are doing. I’ve noticed Alice is much hungrier on her pre-school days and if they have been tearing round the park or off at swimming they come back ravenous.

If you are worried about how much, or how little, your toddler is eating then below are some simple recommendations on portion sizes. Each food group is different so there is no hard and fast rule to how much you should be serving but this should serve as a bit of a guide to help you judge if they have, in fact, had enough to eat. We’ve included ranges rather than exact amounts as each child is different.

Who knew five pieces of pasta was enough or a quarter of a bagel? And one broccoli floret is the way forward so I now feel a bit guilty for piling their plate full of greens that they refuse to eat.

Hope this gives you a bit of reassurance.

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Toddler Food Portion Sizes

Information taken from Infant & Toddler Forum.

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Author: Lottie Manns
Cake baker (and cake eater!) extraordinaire. Drawn to all things girly and glittery.
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33 thoughts on “Toddler Portion Sizes

  1. Wow! My nearly two year old eats a lot! I can’t believe these sizes are so small. It’s reassuring that he definitely is getting what he needs. Though if I were to only give him 1 Weetabix we’d have a revolt on our hands πŸ˜‚

    1. I think each kid is different so I’d go with what they want to eat. Alice would have 2 weetabix most days! x

  2. We are having a difficult time with eating at the moment due to chemotherapy. Some day he eats a lot and others not so much. I’ve been looking for something like this for ages but never found something so explicit in sizes. But looks like says when he isn’t eating much he is actually getting enough. Some days a lot of his food is just snacking bits but I remind myself to look at the whole week rather than one day. Mind you 2-4 ice pops a day is definitely not on the list!!πŸ˜† I can’t believe how much I’ve slipped on my treat allowance for him!!

    1. I’d say 4 ice pops a day is definitely fine! Hope his treatment is going well, big love to your little one and to you ❀

    2. Hi Claire. So sorry to hear about the chemo, sending you lots of love. It’s amazing how small the portions are really and I think you go with your child but be reassured that they don’t need as much as you think. Our treat allowance in our house could rival Willy Wonka at the moment!! x

  3. I feel like I should know all of this, but nope, not a clue.

    Good to know it’s not just me. Although I fear for my life next time i try to tell E that FOUR CHIPS might be enough! πŸ™ˆπŸ™ˆ

    Such a great little guide, thanks for sharing x

    1. It’s funny isn’t it Karen… I feel like Leo eats much more than this but I think for my friends who have kids that don’t eat that well it’s really reassuring because actually, they’re eating probably similar to some of these portions so they feel a bit less worried about it. But yes, four chips wouldn’t cut it in my house either! πŸ˜‰ x

      1. Where does Leo put it all?!

        E will go from day to day, either eating everything in sight to nothing at all – she’ll pick pick pick and then push her plate away demanding ‘choccy pud’ (a throwback to hiding antibiotics in Cadbury Pots of Joy that now haunts me forever! …she sings songs about choccy pud and everything)

        You’re right, It’s reassuring that the picky days are completely fine! And yes E, you’ll have an apricot Little Yeo and pipe down x

        1. Love the choccy pudding songs. I apparently used to go to sleep reciting lists of food. “Jelly, ice cream, sausages, chocolate…”. I’d just fall asleep mid list. Every night. True Story. x

          1. Hahaha ALL the main food groups πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

            This weekend I had a beautiful rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle choccy pud, in the car, in the bin…”

            Where does it even come from??x

        2. I just don’t know. He is such a string bean as well… He actually looks pretty skinny – I’m talking all the ribs on show but he eats so so well. I think maybe he jsut has a high metabolism?!

  4. This is perfect timing for us! For the last few months we have been so puzzled as to why Arthur eats everything in sight at nursery (usually two or three portions) but at home doesn’t seem bothered. Given the above I think I’m massively overloading his plate and he’s probably a little overwhelmed, and then when he is full I am concerned he’s not eaten enough…! Think I’ll print this off and try and calm myself down… x

    1. I have often thought that I put too much in their bowls and they get put off by it or I can’t tell when they’ve actually eaten lots. I need to stop piling the food in I think x

  5. This is so helpful, and really reassuring seeing the fruit and veg portions. However if I served on a quarter of a sausage he would be absolutely disgusted!

    1. Ha ha ha. Yep, maybe we should stick to the one broccoli floret but up the sausage allowance! x

  6. This is really good – I definitely try to over feed my daughter judging by this and will stop getting frustrated with her if she doesn’t finish her dinner! I think it’s just that instinct to ‘feed them up’ isn’t it, but I do believe that children generally eat what they need to eat and we are probably helping to create bad habits of over eating by pushing them to keep eating when they are full. Yet I’m still guilty of it myself some days πŸ˜¬πŸ™ˆ x

    1. It’s so hard to know when to stop saying ‘have two more mouthfuls’ but I’m going to make an effort to stop now x

  7. Variable here. She has a big breakfast, small lunch and is then hungry again so will eat more at dinner. I try and think of vegetables and fruit as really small portions. Would rather she ate 10 types of vegetables in small proportions than a huge portion of one type (obviously all hidden in Jamie Oliver’s secret pasta sauce because otherwise….. game over).

    I have the NHS food guide on the inside of my cupboard and use it. I found once I had cut back on bread by giving her half a slice instead of a whole one then she was more likely to eat the healthier accompaniments.

    1. Also I’m pretty strong on the BLW ‘don’t have to finish your plate’. Sometimes you just aren’t hungry so why would your kids me. But, saying that, if she’s hungry again later I give her back what she’s left. Meanie!

    2. That is so true about lowering some things so they eat the heathy stuff. My girls love a bit of bread and butter so would happily fill up on that x

  8. This is so great, thank you! I too am guilty of fretting over my son’s food intake as he is on the small side. I do think many of us adults (definitely me anyway) have stopped listening to what our bodies tell us about when, what and how much to eat as we get caught up in routines and nutritional advice, and we subsequently train our kids to do the same. So I’m trying to step back and trust that he will eat what he needs and it looks like it maybe isn’t as much as I thought!

  9. This has made my day! My 16 month old has quite a bad food aversion/mistrust in food that the dietician thinks has stemmed from an undiagnosed dairy allergy. He will eat certain things but the amount of tears I have cried about him not eating enough and worrying about his weight, when actually he is maybe doing ok looking at this! 😍😍 Thank you rock my family, you have made a worried Mum feel so much better! Xxx

    1. Katie my little girl was terrible at that age and seemed to have a true aversion too, it was really hard. We basically ‘gave up’ in the end and just let her eat what she wanted and gradually after 18/20 months she got a bit better and now at just gone 3 she is a lot lot better! Still has a limited amount of foods and is a bit wary but sooo much better than she was, so there is hope! Much easier said than done but just try accept it and relax and take the pressure off. Good luck X

  10. Mine is a bit little for this yet as just started weaning but I did read an amazing post about creating non-fussy eaters.
    One of the things it recommended was to have the same staple ‘boring’ foods to offer if they don’t finish dinner and are hungry later e.g. a banana or piece of toast. They soon realise that the dinner in front of them is more appealing than the guaranteed boring second option later.

  11. This makes me think I massively overfeed my 19 month old! E demolishes 3 weetabix and a banana and often asks for more! She ate an entire avocado for “pudding” last week! We did baby led weaning so I think I’ve always given quite large portions and just let her eat what she’s wanted.

    1. I think you very much go with what the child wants and if they eat it that’s great. Each one is different and it’s great when they want to eat x

  12. If I offered Felix one babybel he’d royally kick off ! Especially after swimming when all I get is ‘cheeese cheese’ once he sees the bloody things!

    Also found out today he’s told nursery he’s been to McDonalds! He hasn’t!

  13. I learned recently that a good rule is to go by ‘fist size’, so a portion of any food group at any age is what the diner can hold in his own fist. Toddlers clearly have smaller fists than adults so should be eating a lot less, if you see what I mean. Makes sense really – I am about to wean my 6 month old and i think this ‘rule’ will help me to understand more and not worry as much as I did with my first born!

  14. A bit late to the party on this one! Really useful info. My son is 3 and doesn’t each much at all. He is on the go all day long and has loads of energy and I wonder how he can be so lively with what little he eats but looking at this diagram, I guess I don’t need to worry!

    1. It seems we have all been thinking they need more than they actually do and sounds like your son has plenty of energy regardless! x

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