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Are you feeding your toddler adult-size meals? 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. Health Correspondent Mark Smith reports...

PARENTS are putting their young children at risk of obesity by giving them too much food, leading health and nutrition experts have warned.

A survey of 1,000 British mums and dads revealed that 79% routinely offered their pre-school aged children meal portions bigger than the recommended size.

It also found that more than 10% of parents usually serve their child close to an adult-size portion on popular meals such as spaghetti Bolognese.

There was also a tendency for parents to use food or drink between meals as a "pacifier", with 36% of parents using this method to calm children down when they are upset. Just a quarter of parents said they were "very confident" about the amount of food to give to their child, and younger parents aged 18 to 24 years old were significantly less con-fident than older parents.

Despite the current obesity crisis threatening to "cripple" the NHS, only 25% of parents surveyed said they worried their child might become overweight in the future.

A new campaign called #rethinktoddlerportionsizes has been launched the shed light on how much is too much.

Judy More, paediatric dietitian and member of the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF), said: "Practical advice for parents on appropriate portion sizes for toddlers has been lacking, so it's not surprising our survey revealed a significant lack of understanding about how much to feed toddlers.

"With new evidence linking larger portion sizes to excess weight gain, it's clear parents need practical advice now.

"The Infant & Toddler Forum have developed a user-friendly guide to the recommended portion size ranges for children aged one to four to help parents take the guesswork out of how much is enough."

Experts warned that using food or drink as a reward to comfort or distract encourages young children to rely on food to deal with emotions and teaches them to continue this behaviour in later life.

Gill Harris, child and clinical psychologist and member of the ITF, said it was never too early to start promoting healthy eating habits.

She said: "Most toddlers are naturally better than older children and adults at regulating their food intake.

"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."

For details on the correct food portion sizes, please go to TYPICAL PORTIONS FOR TODDLERS | Boiled potatoes: 1/2-11/2 egg-sized potatoes | Chips: 4-8 thick cut chips | White bread slices (fresh or toasted): 1/2-1 medium slice | Apple: 1/4-1/2 medium apple | Carrot: 1-3 tablespoons/2-6 carrot sticks | Banana: 1/4-1 medium banana | Cow's milk as a drink: 1 cup of milk (100-120 ml/3-4oz) | Processed cheese: 15-21g (1 slice/1 triangle or string/1 Mini Babybel) | Sausages: 1/4-1 medium sausage | Minced meat: 2-5 tablespoons | Digestive (plain): 1/2-1 biscuit | Bar of chocolate: 2-4 squares of chocolate


<BRecommended portions for a one to four-year-old of, clockwise from left, raspberries, bread, egg, broccoli, milk and spaghetti bolognese
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 5, 2016
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