Why I won’t #RethinkToddlerPortionSizes

A few weeks ago, I noticed that mumsnet were looking for bloggers to take part in a campaign about toddler portion sizes. It involved the not-so-catchy hashtag #ReThinkToddlerPortionSizes, and was done in conjunction with the Infant and Toddler Forum. I thought it was an interesting concept, but decided not to apply to take part because I don’t want to make food into an issue for my girls.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I started to read blog posts about the #ReThinkToddlerPortionSizes campaign, including this from one of my favourite bloggers, Donna from What the Redhead Said. On first read of the post, the whole concept made me a bit cross. It bothered me, because I know that my girls both have larger portions than they recommend, but they are also notably more active.

When I looked at the Infant and Toddler Forum page, I realised that they did give you the option of taking into consideration the amount of exercise that children do, using their Tot it Up tool. But here’s the thing. To even use that tool, you have to create an account, giving details about your toddler’s age and inputting what they’ve eaten that day, along with the amount of time they’ve been active for.

So it’s basically a very, very early version of a diet. I do understand that obesity is a problem these days, and that many babies and toddlers are overweight. In fact, when Lia was very young, I wrote a post about my anger at a terribly ill-informed Daily Mail article that labelled Lia as obese due to her weight at birth.

But what the Infant and Toddler Forum don’t appear to be addressing is the fact that we live in an era when eating disorders are a very grave concern, even among young children. In fact, another study published this month found that women whose parents call them fat in childhood are more likely to suffer from eating disorders.

And by meticulously counting every calorie we put into our toddlers, as well as monitoring their exercise levels – are we not just putting them on a diet? When you’re baby-led weaning, the mantra is that food should be fun until you’re one. But at two, three, four and five, do children really need to be monitored every step of the way?

Whilst my children eat larger portions than those recommended by the Infant and Toddler Forum, their food is healthy and eating isn’t an issue. I do worry that the ‘experts’ involved in studies such as this are trying to justify their own existence, at the expense of allowing kids to have a childhood. Of course we shouldn’t allow children to become overweight, but the vast majority of parents know that, and really don’t need intervention.

One of the most horrible experiences I’ve had as a parent was when my daughter said to me, “I’m not a pretty girl.” I hate that society puts so much pressure on tiny children to comply with what is perceived to be acceptable in terms of their bodies. I want my children to enjoy food in the same way I do – and not grow up to have body image issues.

And most of all, I want the ‘experts’ to back off and allow people to parent instinctively. Nobody knows a child like its parents, although I do accept that there are a very few exceptions where intervention is needed. But as a general rule, I think it is reasonable to allow good parents to be good parents, and allow children to enjoy their childhood.Why I'll be standing my ground amid calls to #ReThinkToddlerPortionSizesPressure to feed your child the perfect diet is just one more hassle that none of us need. Life is tough enough for parents, without unrealistic expectations being levelled at us as well. So please, give us all a break and go and find somebody who really does need ‘expert’ advice.

16 thoughts on “Why I won’t #RethinkToddlerPortionSizes

  1. Sian QuiteFranklySheSaid

    I have seen this campaign doing the rounds too and it has made me a little paranoid because my 1 year old is like a dustbin – he eats and eats and eats! But he eats all good things and his diet is balanced and varied. And his height and weight are perfect!x

  2. Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love)

    Definitely with you on this one – I would be very worried at making food an issue and to start obsessing over calories with toddlers seems a little over the top to me. I try and make sure my girls are offered plenty of healthy food plus occasional treats and we try and make sure they’re active and spend plenty of time outdoors. My father-in-law once raised a concern about my youngest’s healthy appetite and whilst she isn’t overweight, it did prompt me to do a little research into how best to tackle it if she was. What I read suggested focusing on increasing activity rather than restricting food which seems like a much better approach from my perspective.

  3. Rosie @greenrosielife

    I’d not seen the campaign until today when a post popped up on my FB page that also linked to this one. So I cannot really comment on the details of the campaign other than from what I have read here. However what I do feel is that if anything is to be done to help parents then it should be encouraging them to be know what healthy foods they and their children should be eating and also helping everyone to become more active. My boys have always had large appetites and were very chubby toddlers but being fed healthy, non-processed food and leading active lives means I now have 2 skinny and fit teenagers. But I suppose a campaign called #BanProcessedFoodsGetMoreActiveandCookHealthily isn’t going to work is it?
    Rosie @greenrosielife recently posted…Brexit and the UK EnvironmentMy Profile

  4. Sarah MumofThree World

    Amen to that! Of course there are children who are an unhealthy weight from a young age and a certain amount of education is needed, but every child is different and parents don’t need telling exactly what to feed their children.
    My daughter is 10 and a healthy weight, but has a tiny appetite. She eats less than her 3yo cousin, but what she eats is clearly right for her. At the age of 5, my now 12yo son (big build, but very thin), went on the Wii Fit and was told he was ‘at risk of being overweight’. He actually stopped eating for a couple of days until I realised the cause. The same happened in y1 when he was asked to keep a food diary – he was embarrassed about how much he’d eaten and didn’t want anyone to know. It’s scary stuff! He’s had the food diary homework since in both y3 and y7 and it worries me every time.
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted…(Not) Watching stuffMy Profile

  5. (Mostly) Yummy Mummy

    I completely agree! When I saw this campaign doing the rounds, the first thing I thought was oh no, something else for parents to feel completely paranoid about! Because let’s face it, the only parents who will care enough to read this stuff will probably be the parents that are doing a perfectly good job already! The few who actually need the advice are the least likely to take quite frankly! My four are way beyond the toddler years (thank goodness!) but I’ve learnt to take all ‘expert advice’ with a pinch of salt after all these years and trust my own instincts. Great post!

  6. Louise Pink Pear Bear

    With you 100%! I think giving young children any sort of concept of limited portions is dangerous. As long as their diet is balanced and they exercise, there shouldn’t be any need for this sort of intervention. The worst thing you can do as a parent is call yourself negative names & constantly calorie count. A good sensible attitude to portions and treats should carry through!
    Louise Pink Pear Bear recently posted…What to pack when camping with kids.My Profile

  7. Rachel C

    Absolutely with you on this. I have three boys…two are fussy eaters and eat the bare minimum, the youngest is a human dustbin. He eats loads! He’s slim (still in 12-18month trousers at almost 2!) and very active. I think this campaign is just another way of piling on parent guilt and worrying parents unnecessarily.

  8. Natalie Streets

    You know how I feel about this; they are targeting the completely wrong people with this. People who are actually feeding their children processed rubbish day in day out will be annoyed that they are being told what to do by someone else so will ignore it. The ones who are going to take note are the ones who have been paranoid about their own weight and then become paranoid about their child’s weight which then just passes that paranoia on. It’s just a recipe for disaster and eating disorders.

    That Tot It Up thing you mentioned sounds like a baby version of my fitness pal and like something that could be dangerous in the wrong hands.

    The thing is, people know that bad food is bad for them, that they should ‘eat less and move more’, but there are clearly barriers in the way for people being able to do that and that’s what really needs tackling.

    ps-Oliver dropped centiles when he was a baby and the Health Visitor was trying to make me feed him puree’s to ‘get food in to him’, I think that attitude is one of the first that needs changing!
    Natalie Streets recently posted…Introducing : Ziva and TaliMy Profile

  9. Esther @ Inside Out & About

    I am really shocked about this campaign. I know what they are trying to say, but there are far more important things that could be changed…like eating the right foods. My kids are allowed as much as they want of good food…vegetables, nuts and other good fats. Food that is very nutrient heavy! Tracking calories for kids? That is horrendous! x
    Esther @ Inside Out & About recently posted…28/52My Profile

  10. Esther @ Inside Out & About

    I’ve just had a good look at this – they even have portions for broccoli and greens. I think that is really bad! I understand having portion sizes for fruit, bread and carbs but not greens! Lol xx
    Esther @ Inside Out & About recently posted…28/52My Profile

  11. Debbie

    Hi Natalie, an excellent post. The whole ‘dieting’ thing makes me cringe and I am totally, totally against the whole idea of going on a diet. Not because I’ve never needed to loose weight (sometimes the pounds creep on), but because ‘dieting’ rarely helps in the long term.

    I see no harm in educating people (and children, but in an obviousness way) about sensible eating, but to ram calorie counting and body shape down peoples necks is totally wrong.

    My Mum won’t even say the ‘D’ word around me as she knows how dead against it I am. The ‘dieting’ frame of mind can change the way people see food and not in a positive light and that applies mainly to children, who don’t want or need to be made to feel different….. Grrrrrrr, it makes me soooooo cross!

    I totally agree that the ‘experts’ should be concentrating their efforts where it is truly needed and not undermining the instincts of parents, who then start to doubt their own judgement.

    Fab post!

    Debbie recently posted…Zola, One Determined PuppyMy Profile

  12. Louise | Squished Blueberries

    I totally agree with this, I will never count calories or control my kids portion sizes!! They need to be given good food to eat and allowed to regulate their own intake so they can learn how to eat until they are full. If I restrict them too heavily then it will only encourage them to binge as soon as they are let off the reigns surely? The best way to tackle childhood obesity to get the parents to change their own eating and exercise habits and let it trickle through to the children I reckon xx
    Louise | Squished Blueberries recently posted…It’s all about the connectionMy Profile

  13. Pinkoddy

    I agree it isn’t kids that need targeting and the stupid weigh-in thing they do in reception is stupid too. Starts at birth though doesn’t it with all those percentiles and forcing people to make sure their kids put on the right amount of weight.
    Pinkoddy recently posted…Livestock Festival 2016My Profile

  14. Jenny - Monkey and Mouse

    I do find it a bit weird, every child is different in the amount they eat, how much they weigh, their height, their activity etc. So there is no definitive toddler portion size! My two don’t like actual meals as such, they would rather just snack away, they are also very active and eat mainly fruit and veg with a little carbs thrown in. But they are growing and developing fine. 🙂 x
    Jenny – Monkey and Mouse recently posted…Summer Holiday Fun? The Present FinderMy Profile


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