Getting started with portion sizes

When it comes to eating, how do you know how much your children should be eating? Nutrition consultant and registered dietitian Angela Phillips explains.

As dietitians, we spend more and more time reconnecting people with how to listen to their bodies. With the busy lives we lead and the complex relationships we have with food, taking the time to listen to our appetite and respond appropriately seems to be a forgotten skill. As parents, we have the opportunity to help children establish a positive relationship with food, where they let their own bodies tell them how much of what foods will make them feel good.

Babies can self-regulate

This process starts right from when they are babies. Typically, infants and young children have the ability to regulate their food intake if we let them. This means some days they’ll eat more, and some days they’ll eat less. It can be so easy to think, “Yesterday they finished their 200ml bottle” or “Last time I made scrambled eggs they finished it, but today they’ve only had half, so I’ll keep encouraging them.” It is important to remember that some days they may have used more energy, or have had more at their previous meal/ feed. Try to read your baby’s body language and respond appropriately, rather than having any preconceived ideas of how much they need.


– Watch your baby and check they are swallowing regularly while breastfeeding as a sign they are getting enough.

– If you feel they are not drinking enough, get their weight checked by a health professional and monitor wet nappies.

– If you feel your baby falls asleep quickly while feeding, changing their nappy or removing some of their clothes can help wake them up again to continue the feed and avoid small “snacks” rather than a full feed.

– If feeding formula, remember that the suggested quantities are a guide only.

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