What exactly are ‘me’ sized meals for one- to five-year-olds?

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Large portion size is associated with excessive weight gain during the preschool years (one-to-five-years). This multi methods thesis comprises three studies, which identified and explored the use of portion size guidance and potential environmental-level factors associated with the consumption of larger portions.
A systematic grey literature review identified 22 portion size guidance resources in the UK and Ireland for parents and childcare settings regarding feeding preschool children. Resources presented recommended portion sizes as individual foods or within meals. The median portion sizes recommended for dairy, starchy and protein food groups and meals varied across resources.
Reflexive thematic analysis was used to qualitatively explore the portioning practices of first-time parents of one- to two-year-olds, as well as their awareness of and opinions on six portion size guidance resources aimed at parents identified in the grey literature review. First-time parents used dishware and packaging, as well as experience of previous feeding occasions to serve portions. Most first-time parents did not recognise the resources. Although parents liked aspects of the resources, they did not want to strictly follow guidance recommendations, preferring instead to use child-led practices to ensure their child was well fed.
A secondary data analysis of preschool children within the National Diet and Nutrition Survey dataset was conducted. Variation in consumed portion size among preschool children was mostly attributed to differences within-children rather than between children. Eating in eateries, sitting at the table, in childcare settings, with family and friends, and while watching TV were associated with the consumption of larger portions.
This thesis suggests guidance resources may not be effective in promoting the consumption of age-appropriate portion sizes for healthy weight. Instead, a range of policy strategies are needed to promote age-appropriate portion sizes, which align with parent feeding goals, especially in eating contexts associated with consumption of larger portions.
Date of Award22 Mar 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorLaura Johnson (Supervisor), R M Langford (Supervisor), Zoi Toumpakari (Supervisor) & Ruth R Kipping (Supervisor)


  • portion size
  • preschool children
  • child obesity

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