By: Jennifer Berry, MS, OT/L

Many parents struggle with getting their children to eat certain foods, certain meals, or sometimes anything at all. For parents of picky eaters, anxious eaters, or kids that have feeding tubes or feeding disorders this struggle can be all too challenging.  Portion size can make a huge difference in helping a child feel comfortable with the food they are faced with.   

All too often we see parents presenting their already uncertain eaters with portion sizes that are way too big. We strongly recommend offering smaller portion sizes for a few reasons: 

  1. Parents often over-estimate portion sizes for young children.  More often than not, we see parents worry over how much their children eat when in fact they are getting more than enough.  A quick way to illustrate this point is to point out some the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended portion sizes for toddlers and common foods. This website is so helpful to identify portion sizes, sample menus, and snack options!
  • Bread – 1/4-1/2 a slice of sandwich bread 
  • Egg – 1/2 egg 
  • Yogurt – 1/3 cup 
  1. Kids can be completely overwhelmed at a large portion or busy looking plate.  It’s amazing to see a child refuse a large portion and then see what happens when they are presented with a smaller plate or a smaller serving.  It isn’t magic, but smaller amounts can keep kids from shutting down and saying no before they otherwise may have. 
  2. Small portions give children a chance to finish something and feel success and sometimes even ask for more.  This enables anxious eaters to feel powerful and puts them in control of something that often feels out-of-control or intimidating.  When a child asks for more, we know they are self-regulating their intake and that is immeasurably valuable to their long term health.  

If you think you may have fallen into the trap of serving gigantic servings to your littles there are a few simple tweaks to get you back on track.  

  •  Take a step back and try offering a 1/3 of what you normally do and keep the rest in your child’s line of site.   
  • Try family style and let big kids serve themselves.  Just be sure that your kids are never forced or coerced to eat a food they don’t want or feel safe around.   
  • Make sure every meal has a component that your kid feels safe around, even if it is just a roll or a glass of milk.   

The name of the game is enjoyment and trust.  Let us know if making portions smaller made a difference to you and your little one.  Happy Mealtimes! 

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