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Where and when are portion sizes larger in young children? An analysis of eating occasion size among 1·5–5-year-olds in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2008–2017)

Porter, Alice and Toumpakari, Zoi and Kipping, Ruth and Summerbell, Carolyn and Johnson, Laura (2022) 'Where and when are portion sizes larger in young children? An analysis of eating occasion size among 1·5–5-year-olds in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2008–2017).', Public Health Nutrition, 25 (12). pp. 3420-3431.


Objective: To identify eating occasion-level and individual-level factors associated with the consumption of larger portions in young children and estimate their relative importance. Design: Cross-sectional. Setting: Data from parent-reported 4-d food diaries in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2008–2017) were analysed. Multilevel models explored variation in eating occasion size (kJ) within (n 48 419 occasions) and between children (n 1962) for all eating occasions. Eating contexts: location, eating companion, watching TV, and sitting at a table and individual characteristics: age, gender, ethnicity and parental socio-economic status were explored as potential correlates of eating occasion size. Participants: Children aged 1·5–5 years. Results: Median eating occasion size was 657 kJ (IQR 356, 1117). Eating occasion size variation was primarily attributed (90 %) to differences between eating occasions. Most (73 %) eating occasions were consumed at home. In adjusted models, eating occasions in eateries were 377 kJ larger than at home. Eating occasions sitting at a table, v. not, were 197 kJ larger. Eating in childcare, with additional family members and friends, and whilst watching TV were other eating contexts associated with slightly larger eating occasion sizes. Conclusions: Eating contexts that vary from one eating occasion to another are more important than demographic characteristics that vary between children in explaining variation in consumed portion sizes in young children. Strategies to promote consumption of age-appropriate portion sizes in young children should be developed, especially in the home environment, in eating contexts such as sitting at the table, eating with others and watching TV.

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Publisher statement:This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:22 December 2021
Date deposited:16 February 2022
Date of first online publication:27 December 2021
Date first made open access:16 February 2022

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