New paper: How do French parents determine portion sizes for their pre-schooler? A qualitative exploration of the parent-child division of responsibility and influencing factors
Serving large portion sizes to children can make them overeat. They can make children overrule their inner sensations of hunger and fullness, and make them eat more than they need. This is the well-known “portion size effect”. Serving right portion sizes to children, adapted to their needs, is also important to avoid weight gain in the long run. However, how do parents determine portions for their child and what influences their food portioning practices? That’s what Kaat Philippe (ESR7) and her colleagues were interested in.
To find out, they conducted interviews with 5 French fathers and 32 mothers of pre-schoolers. Parents were asked to describe how they decide on portion sizes in their family, who serves these portions to the child and what influences their decisions. Is it always the parent who serves the child and determines the portion size or can the child also help and indicate how much (s)he wants to eat? During the interview, parents were also asked if they know about or look for information or recommendations about this topic. After the interview, they also had to complete a short survey.
Kaat and her colleagues found that most French parents are in control when serving and determining portion sizes for their pre-schooler, especially for the first serving. Very few parents allow their child to serve. Parents gave different reasons for these practices. They described, for example, that they serve their child because the child is too young, the food is too hot or liquid or because the child will only choose the foods (s)he likes. For most parents, determining portion sizes is an intuitive action that reflects habits. They know their child’s appetite and food preferences and serve an amount of food based on their experience with the child. Other reasons related to the parent (e.g., avoiding food waste), family traditions and French food culture were also described. Finally, they found that most parents do not search for information or recommendations to guide their practices.
It is important that children listen to their inner sensations of hunger and fullness when eating and avoid to overeat. Parents can help their children in doing so by interacting with the child and being responsive to their needs. This study gave us insight into the parental food portioning practices used in France. It also identified barriers and facilitators to guide parents in providing appropriate portion sizes and how to help parents to include children in the decision process.
The paper is published in Nutrients:
Philippe, K., Issanchou, S., Roger, A., Feyen, V., & Monnery-Patris, S. (2021). How do French parents determine portion sizes for their pre-schooler? A qualitative exploration of the parent-child division of responsibility and influencing factors. Nutrients, 13(8), 2769. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13082769