What it means to manage portions
There are two things to keep in mind when you think about portion size. The one is how much of the different foods make up a plate. The second is how much food in totality is on the plate. The goal is a meal that has the correct proportions of nutrients, with those nutrients in quantities appropriate for the child’s needs.
As explained in ‘What does eat nutritious and varied options mean?’, carbohydrates, proteins and fats are needed in larger quantities, with vitamins and minerals required in smaller quantities. Using breakfast as an example, a slice of buttered brown bread and a boiled egg with a small glass of milk will provide enough carbohydrates, proteins and fats to start the day. However, on their own, these foods will provide only some of the 26 vitamins and minerals they need for that day. Adding a small bowl of fruit salad will increase the number of vitamins and minerals needed, in that way creating a nutritionally balanced meal. If you were to put all of those foods in one plate, proportionally the fruits will be in larger quantities than either the bread or the boiled egg. In fact, the fruits alone will be equal to the bread and egg together. This is generally what a nutritionally balanced meal looks like in terms of proportion – double the quantity of fruits and vegetables on the plate, or served as a side, compared to the carbohydrates and protein.
The total amount of food a 3- ,7- and 10-year-old need is different, and one needs to consider the size of their stomachs. The preschool child’s stomach can manage five small meals spread throughout the day served on a plate that size of a regular bowl, while primary school kids should be served three meals on a small plate and two snacks a day.