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Portion Size Guide for Preschoolers

publication date: Jul 19, 2019

Portion Size Guide for PreschoolersThe British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has published its updated 5532 guide, a resource about portion size and healthy eating focussed on preschoolers, which includes new information on free sugars, and more advice on vegetarian and vegan diets for young children, aged one to four years.

Developed by the BNF’s team of nutrition scientists along with an advisory group of experts in early years nutrition, the 5532 guide outlines the balance of different foods that preschool children should be eating, and in what amounts, to help parents and carers choose a healthy, varied diet for their children.

5532 represents the number of portions across each food group that young children should eat each day: five portions of starchy foods; five (or more) portions of fruit and vegetables; three portions of dairy foods; and two portions of protein foods (or three if a child is vegetarian).

The 5532 guide contains examples of a variety of foods within each food group. Because the guide covers ages one to four years, and young children’s appetites vary from day to day, a portion size range is given for most foods. Parents and carers can work within this to decide what best suits their child, for example: three to six tbsp breakfast cereal, two to six carrot sticks, two to four tbsp of beans or lentils. 

The 5532 guide contains updated information on free sugars, highlighting that parents need to limit intake of sweetened versions of starchy foods, such as high sugar cereals, and should opt for unsweetened dairy foods, like plain yogurt, where possible. The resource also addresses confusion on the nutritional value of fruit juices, stating that “Fruit juice provides some nutrients but is also high in sugar and is acidic so, if consumed, should be diluted and kept to mealtimes”.

With the increasing popularity of vegetarianism and veganism, BNF has adapted the 5532 guide to provide specific information on these diets for young children. Among the advice, BNF recommends that vegetarian children should eat three portions of protein foods per day to ensure that they get enough of important nutrients such as iron and zinc. While well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets can be healthy for young children, for those considering a vegan diet, the BNF suggests visiting a GP to ask for advice about supplementation, as it can be difficult for young children to get enough vitamin A and B12, riboflavin, iron, zinc, calcium and iodine.

As well as containing information on portion sizes, the 5532 guide contains nutrition and feeding advice for parents of preschool children, as well as further advice on breastfeeding, and updated food group names in line with the most recent Eatwell Guide. The 5532 resources are free to download online here and printed copies are also available from the BNF shop.