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Portion Size Matters

Por Lic. Isabel C. Rodríguez R.* -

Have you ever wondered how much food you should serve your child? The answer is simple: A child’s serving size should be small like the child!

Many parents worry that their child is not eating well because he/she does not eat as much as parents or older siblings do. Parents forget that children are smaller than adults, and need fewer calories to maintain energy and stay healthy.

Divide up the food

Three small meals a day do not provide enough calories and nutrients for your child to grow properly. They should be eating more frequently--three main meals plus two or three snacks. Following this type of meal pattern will provide your child with a sufficient amount of calories, and not overfill his/her stomach.


Smaller children need the appropriate size of tableware. Your child's place setting should be set with child-size cups and cutlery (preferably plastic to avoid injury).

Small but varied

Just like older kids and adults, toddlers and preschoolers need foods from all the food groups. Offer your child the same variety of food as the rest of the family, but in smaller portion sizes.

Cut up the food

In addition to adjusting the volume of food your child eats, it is important to cut up the food into small or fine pieces to allow him/her to eat independently and chew and swallow without difficulty.

When have they had enough?

Start by serving your child small portions at meals and snacks and let them ask for more. Your child will give you signs when he/she’s full and doesn’t want to eat any more. He/she will take the spoon out his/her mouth or turn away from the food.

Bigger is not always better

If your child’s servings are larger than he/she really needs, you could be paving the way for future weight problems. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that feeding your child larger portions is providing more nutrition. Malnutrition can mean either under nutrition or over nutrition, both situations can have a negative impact on a child's health.

Am I doing it right?

One way to gauge if your child is fed appropriately, is to monitor his/her growth, rate of weight gain, and energy level. If your child has a good energy level and at checkups, the doctor comments that he/she is growing well, then there is no doubt that you are doing things right!


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