portion sizes

Portion Sizes For Kids – How Much Is Enough?


Child obesity rates in England are increasing at a frightening rate. In a study carried out in 2016, 10% of children going into their first year of school were obese. For 11-year-olds in their last year of primary school, things were even worse, with an astonishing 19.8% of children being obese. The report also shows that the obesity epidemic is felt more by some than others: the affluent London borough of Richmond upon Thames had the fewest obese children in England at 11% of year six pupils, and the east London borough of Barking and Dagenham had the most, at 28.5% of 11-year-olds.

With the worrying trend and the multitude of confusing information available about nutrition, it can be difficult to know how best to feed your child, and perhaps just as important: how much. Portion sizes can be tricky to get right, especially with unregulated mealtimes, such as snack-time. Yet finding the right balance and making sure your child is eating the correct amount of food for them is vital for their health and well-being.


A few rules of thumb

When working out portion sizes, it is important to remember that every child is different and has their own individual needs when it comes to food. This can be for a multitude of reasons, from how active they are in their genes. With that in mind, below is a rough guide to the portion sizes your child should be eating in any one sitting.

Food Aged 4-10 Aged 11-18
Bread 50-70g: 1-2 medium slices 80-100g: 2 thick slices
Potatoes 120-170g 200-250g
Rice or Pasta 45-65g 65-80g
Orange, Apples or Pears 1 small fruit (50-100g) 1 medium sized (100-150g)
Raisins or other dried fruits 15-30g (½ to 1 tbsp) 25-30g (1 tbsp)
Tinned fruit 65-100g (2-3 tbsp) 130g (3-4 tbsp)
Vegetables (cooked) 40-60g (1-2 tbsp) 80g (2-3 tbsp)
Low-fat milk 150-200mls 200-250mls
Cheese 20-30g 30-40g
Ice cream 60-80g 100g
Roast chicken 60-85g 85-125g
White fish 60-90g 90-125g
Egg 1 1-2
Yoghurt 80-120g 120-150g
Biscuits and flapjacks 25-30g 30-40g
Cakes and doughnuts 40-50g 50-60g


For more information on portion sizes on foods not listed here, check out the NHS Change for Life guide.


Making sure they get their 5 a day

Carefully controlling your child’s portion sizes might mean that reaching 5 portions of fruit and veg a day is quite a challenge. The key is to remember that one portion of fruit or veg for a child is roughly the amount they can fit in the palm of their hand. Keeping this in mind, reaching 5 portions a day shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. The NHS guidance is as follows:

Fruit portions:

  • Two or more small fruits: two plums, two kiwi fruits, six lychees, seven strawberries, fourteen cherries
  • One piece of medium sized fruit: an apple, an orange, a banana, a pear
  • Large fruits: Half of a grapefruit, one slice of papaya, one slice of melon (5cm), one large slice of pineapple

Vegetable portions:

  • Green veg: Two broccoli spears, four heaped tablespoons of kale, spinach, spring greens or green beans
  • Cooked veg: Three heaped tablespoons of carrots, peas or sweetcorn, eight cauliflower florets
  • Salad veg: Three sticks of celery, 5cm piece of cucumber, one medium tomato, seven cherry tomatoes

Beans and pulses:

  • Three heaped teaspoons of baked beans, haricot beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, butter beans or chickpeas

It is important to remember that potatoes, yams, cassava and plantain do not count towards the 5 a day as they are classed as a starch food. Sweet potatoes, parsnips and turnips do count towards their 5 a day.


Keeping a lid on the snacks

It can be easy to get portion sizes wrong when it comes to giving your child snacks as these are usually eaten out of the house on the go, and are quickly forgotten. The key is to be as careful as possible with how much you give your child as well as keeping them as healthy as possible. Top of your list should be fruit and veg, such as a medium apple or a handful of carrot sticks. Of course, it is OK to give your child unhealthy snacks as long as these instances are rare and you follow the packet guidelines for the amount that should be eaten.


Tips for getting portion sizes for kids right

Every child is different and some will need larger portions than others of the same age. It is important to let your child tell you when they are full: you should try not to pressure them to finish everything on their plate. A useful tactic is to feed them on only child-sized plates, as giving them adult-sized plates is likely to lead to overeating. Set mealtimes and encouraging slower eating can be helpful too. For advice and guidance on portion sizes, check out the NHS choices website which is full of ideas and tips on healthy eating and maintaining a child’s healthy weight.