Plating up appropriate portion sizes for children: a systematic review of parental food and beverage portioning practices

Type Article

Journal Article


L. Kairey; K. Matvienko-Sikar; C. Kelly; M. C. McKinley; E. M. O'Connor; P. M. Kearney; J. V. Woodside; J. M. Harrington

Year of publication



Obes Rev








Consumption of larger portion sizes is associated with higher energy intake and weight status in children. As parents play a pivotal role in child feeding, we synthesized literature on 'parental portioning practices' using a mixed methods systematic design to inform future strategies addressing portion sizes served to children. Electronic databases PubMed, EMBASE, SCOPUS, PsycINFO and CINAHL Plus were searched. Two reviewers independently screened 385 abstracts and assessed 71 full-text articles against eligibility criteria: studies assessing portioning of foods or beverages by parent(s) with ≥1 child aged 2-12 years. Narrative synthesis of 14 quantitative studies found that portion sizes parents serve vary substantially and are influenced by amounts parents serve themselves, perceived child hunger and parent and child body size. Thematic synthesis of 14 qualitative studies found that parents serve the portion sizes they learn to be appropriate for their child to be fed. Portioning is influenced by parents' desires for a healthy child with a balanced diet. Future guidance on appropriate portion sizes for children would ideally present recommended portion sizes for first serving, incremental with age. Future research is however needed to assess the adoption and efficacy of providing such guidance to families.