A qualitative exploration of food portion size practices and awareness of food portion size guidance in first-time parents of one-to two-year-olds living in the UK

Alice Porter*, Rebecca Langford, Carolyn Summerbell, Laura Tinner, Ruth R Kipping

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Background
Food portion size guidance resources aimed at parents of young children in the UK are freely available from a number of credible sources. However, little is known about whether parents are aware of, and use, any of these resources to guide their food portioning practices.

Objectives
We aimed to explore the food portion size practices used by first-time parents living in the UK when feeding their one- to two-year-old child, and their awareness of and views on six food portion size guidance resources.

Methods
Participants were recruited via parent Facebook groups and online parent forums. Online 1-1 semi-structured interviews were conducted, during which parents were shown images of six food portion size guidance resources to facilitate discussion. Data was analysed in NVivo 11 using a Reflexive Thematic Analysis approach.

Results
Of the 27 participants, most were women (n=25), white (n=18), and educated to first degree level or higher (n=24). First-time parents mostly relied on their own judgement and “instinct” to portion foods, based on their learned experience of how much their child ate on a day-to-day basis. This experience was used alongside physical indicators of food portion size, such as the size of children’s dishware and food packaging. Most participants were unaware of any of the six food portion size guidance resources we showed them; only four had read any of the resources. Parents suggested they had previously sought advice about weaning from a range of sources (e.g. online, friends, community groups) but would be unlikely to seek out specific food portion size guidance. Parents suggested recommendations on food portion size should acknowledge and highlight parents’ perception that “every child is different”.

Conclusions
Existing food portion size guidance resources for parents of young children in the UK are ineffective as they have poor reach and impact. We suggest parents should be involved in developing novel strategies to promote age-appropriate consumption and healthy weight gain in young children.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1779
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Facebook groups and parent forum websites who allowed us to post our study advert. We thank the parents who took part in the interviews. We acknowledge the First Steps Nutrition Trust, British Nutrition Foundation, Infant & Toddler Forum, Bristol City Council, NHS Bradford and NHS Start4Life, as we link to their resources in this article.

Funding Information:
This study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Public Health Research (Grant PDSPH-2015). The NIHR School for Public Health Research is a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield, Bristol, Cambridge, Imperial, University College London, The London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), LiLaC—a collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool and Lancaster and The Centre for Translational Research in Public Health (Fuse) a collaboration between Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside Universities. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd., part of Springer Nature.

Keywords

  • portion size
  • preschool children
  • guidance
  • portioning practices
  • qualitative

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