One in 10 parents feed their pre-school children adult-sized portions, worrying new research has revealed.
They are now being warned of the dangers of over-feeding after the research also found 80 per cent of children aged one to four are often given more food than they need.
The Infant and Toddler Forum (ITF), which commissioned the survey of 1,000 parents, has warned parents are increasing the chances their children will become obese.
As part of the study, parents were shown pictures of food and told to select the portion sizes they give their children, as well as being asked how often they give youngsters certain foods.
The results showed around one in 10 parents usually served their child nearly an adult-sized portion of popular foods like spaghetti or cheese sandwiches.
Around 10 per cent of respondents gave their children too large servings of snacks, with nearly three in 10 choosing a bigger than necessary portion size of cheese and oatcakes when asked to select from pictures.
Seven in 10 parents also routinely offered their child a bigger portion of crisps than recommended. While more than a third gave their children a whole bag of crisps – nearly twice the recommended amount.
Around 45 per cent would let their child have crisps two or three times a week, 17 per cent offered them four to six times a week and six per cent gave them crisps every day.
Only two in 10 parents limited crisps to a once-a-week snack.
Two thirds of parents also routinely gave their children too much squash or fruit juice, and a quarter would let children eat a whole pack of jelly sweets as a treat – three times the recommended amount.
Despite the results, three quarters of parents surveyed said they were worried their children did not eat enough while only a quarter were concerned their child might become overweight in future.
And a third admitted using food or drink to calm down children when they were upset.
Only a quarter of parents were ‘very confident’ they gave the right amount of food to their child.
Psychologist Gill Harris, of the ITF, added: ‘It’s never too early to start promoting healthy eating habits.
‘Most toddlers are naturally better than older children and adults at regulating their food intake.
They usually only eat what they need and don’t overeat.
‘However, portion size is critical. It’s one of the main ways in which, as parents, we can inadvertently override children’s self-regulation systems.
‘Larger portions form our acceptance about what is an appropriate amount to eat and this becomes the norm.
‘In other words, how much you offer often determines how much your child will eat and habits learned in early life generally tend to persist.’
Judy More, paediatric dietitian and member of the ITF, added: ‘Practical advice for parents on appropriate portion sizes for toddlers has been lacking, so it’s not surprising our survey revealed a significant lack of understanding about how much to feed them.
‘With new evidence linking larger portion sizes to excess weight gain, it’s clear parents need practical advice now.
‘The Infant & Toddler Forum has developed a user-friendly guide to the recommended portion size ranges for children aged 1-4 to help parents take the guesswork out of how much is enough.’
For a full list of portion recommended portion sizes for all foods, visit the forum’s website.