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Average Portions of Foods Commonly Eaten by Infants and Toddlers in the United States

      Abstract

      Objectives

      To examine average portion sizes consumed per eating occasion by infants and toddlers. Average portions reported for toddlers were compared to average portions for comparably aged children reported in the 1994 to 1996 and 1998 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals. In addition, reported average portions were compared with minimum required portion sizes for meals served to infants and toddlers in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

      Design

      Data from 24-hour recalls collected in the 2002 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) were analyzed. Average portion sizes were determined for major food groups and individual foods that were reported by at least 5% of the population. Most foods were reported separately; however, sandwiches were disaggregated into their components. Gram weights of portions consumed were converted, on a food-by-food basis, to household units so that foods with different volume-to-weight ratios could be analyzed together.

      Subjects/Setting

      A national random sample of 3,022 US infants and toddlers 4 to 24 months of age.

      Statistical Analyses Performed

      For each food and food group, average portion sizes per eating occasion were computed for up to six age groups. An average per-eating occasion portion was determined for each child who consumed a given food by summing the total amount of food consumed over the day and dividing by the number of eating occasions. These estimates were then summed across all children who consumed the food and divided by the total number of consumers. The number of eating occasions was defined as the total number of times a child had anything to eat or drink during the day, excluding eating occasions that included only water and/or supplements.

      Results

      For most foods, there was a gradual increase in the average portion as age increased. Average portions reported for FITS toddlers were consistent with those reported for comparably aged children in the most recent Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals. The average portions reported for FITS infants and toddlers were consistent with CACFP-recommended portion sizes for formula, juice, meats, and cheese. For milk (toddlers only), cereal, breads, fruits, and vegetables, average portions reported in FITS were consistently larger than CACFP portion sizes. Distributions showed that, in many cases, the per-eating occasion portion sizes of 50% to 90% of FITS infants and toddlers exceeded the CACFP portion sizes.

      Conclusions

      Dietitians, pediatricians, and health educators can use the data presented in this article to provide guidance to parents and caregivers about reasonable portion sizes for infants and toddlers. The data should also be useful to those who plan meals for infants and toddlers in child care settings and to researchers studying dietary intakes of infants and toddlers. Advice about reasonable portion sizes should always be tempered with appropriate cautions about avoiding coercive “clean your plate” feeding practices. Parents and caregivers should be encouraged to offer infants and toddlers appropriate portions of healthful foods from the basic food groups, with a special emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and allow them to eat until they are satiated.
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      Biography

      M. K. Fox is a senior researcher at Mathematica Policy Research, Inc, Cambridge, MA; at the time of the study, she was an independent consultant.

      Biography

      K. Reidy is director of nutrition and regulatory affairs and P. Ziegler is an adjunct, assistant professor, Department of Foods and Nutrition, College of Saint Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ; at the time of the study, she was a principal scientist, Gerber Products Co, Parsippany, NJ.

      Biography

      V. Karwe is senior programmer/analyst, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc, Princeton, NJ.