Poster Topical Area: Maternal, Perinatal and Pediatric Nutrition

Location: Hall D

Poster Board Number: 295

P13-037 - Best Portion Control Practices for Young Children: What do Parents Think and Do?

Sunday, Jun 10
8:00 AM – 6:00 PM


To determine parents' attitudes, beliefs, barriers, and facilitators related to controlling children's portion sizes.


Brief questionnaires were completed by 185 English- and Spanish-speaking parents of children 6- to 11-years-old from 3 states (FL, WV, NJ) and 36 participated in portion control themed focus groups<./p>


Survey completers indicated that they let children decide how much to eat most the time, but not always. Content analysis of focus group data revealed an overarching attitude of parents feeling it was not important for them to exert control over amounts food children ate because kids were very physically active and kids' relied on internal hunger cues to regulate intake. However, if children had health or weight problems or a potential to be sick from overconsumption, parents sought professional advice and relied on past experience to determine amounts to serve children. Parents agreed that their own portion control behaviors affect amounts children eat, as did siblings and media. Changes from preschool to elementary-school that facilitated portion control included kids being more aware of how much and what they should eat and having more structured mealtime routines. However, busy schedules that interrupted routines and kids' exposure to and desire for unhealthy snacks hindered keeping serving sizes healthy. Other barriers to controlling kids' portion sizes named by English-speaking parents included children snacking often and not being hungry for meals, or lacking interest in eating when meals were served. A barrier among Spanish-speaking parents was lack of knowledge regarding age-appropriate portion sizes for children. Strategies parents used to overcome barriers were portioning food ahead of time, talking with kids about appropriate amounts of food, using resources (e.g., plates, utensils) to guide serving sizes, and restricting free access to snack foods. Strategies for serving healthy amounts to picky eaters were accepting that kids may not like certain foods and offering other food options.


Nutrition education efforts that enhance parent knowledge of and value placed on portion control and that provide strategies for effective, healthful portion control could help parents help prevent childhood obesity.

Funding Source:

United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Grant Number 2017-680001-26351

CoAuthors: Oluremi Famodu – Univeristy of Florida; Kaitlyn Eck – Rutgers University; Colleen Delaney – Rutgers University; Merlissaq Olfert – West Virginia University; Carol Byrd-Bredbenner – Rutgers University; Karla Shelnutt – University of Florida

Kaitlyn Eck

Rutgers University
New Brunswick, New Jersey