Estimation of portion size in children’s dietary assessment: lessons learnt

E. Foster*, A. J. Adamson, A. S. Anderson, K. L. Barton, W. L. Wrieden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Background/Objectives: Assessing the dietary intake of young children is challenging. In any 1 day, children may have several carers responsible for providing them with their dietary requirements, and once children reach school age, traditional methods such as weighing all items consumed become impractical. As an alternative to weighed records, food portion size assessment tools are available to assist subjects in estimating the amounts of foods consumed. Existing food photographs designed for use with adults and based on adult portion sizes have been found to be inappropriate for use with children. This article presents a review and summary of a body of work carried out to improve the estimation of portion sizes consumed by children.

Methods: Feasibility work was undertaken to determine the accuracy and precision of three portion size assessment tools; food photographs, food models and a computer-based Interactive Portion Size Assessment System (IPSAS). These tools were based on portion sizes served to children during the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. As children often do not consume all of the food served to them, smaller portions were included in each tool for estimation of leftovers. The tools covered 22 foods, which children commonly consume. Children were served known amounts of each food and leftovers were recorded. They were then asked to estimate both the amount of food that they were served and the amount of any food leftover.

Results: Children were found to estimate food portion size with an accuracy approaching that of adults using both the food photographs and IPSAS.

Conclusions: Further development is underway to increase the number of food photographs and to develop IPSAS to cover a much wider range of foods and to validate the use of these tools in a ‘real life’ setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S45-S49
Number of pages5
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Dietary assessment
  • Children
  • Portion size
  • Food photographs


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