Early years resources focus on healthy eating for toddlers

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The Infant and Toddler forum is going back to basics with healthy eating resources in response to the rise in childhood obesity.

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The aim is to instil healthier attitudes in children for life-long health through a practical-based programme of everyday tips on which foods to offer and which behaviours to encourage as early on as possible. There will be a series of factsheets released through the course of the year breaking down the dietary requirements of young children into the nutrients required. They will also highlight the benefits of active play.  

More than 90 per cent of the excess weight in nine-year-old girls and over 70 percent in nine-year-old boys are gained before the child gets to school age, showing that there must be more information about healthy eating in the early years.

Dental decay is also a major concern with more than 30 per cent of children in the UK suffering from dental decay by they time they are five years old. In addition vitamin D deficiency is on the increase with the resurgence of rickets in the toddler age group and the number of children developing diabetes has rocketed in recent years, making it the fastest growing childhood disease.

However, the Demos 'For Starters' report, published last year, highlighted that 73 per cent of mothers reported they had never been advised to give a vitamin supplement to their baby or toddler, despite it being an official Government recommendation that babies aged six months plus should have vitamin drops with vitamins A, C and D.

Dr Atul Singhal, professor of the Paediatric Nutrition at the UCL institute of Child Health and Chair of the ITF, said, ‘We are clearly in a position of needing to balance the risks or excess and the risks of deficiency. We know what happens to children in their earliest years is key to health outcomes in adult life. We also know that making lifestyle changes can be a challenge. Unhealthy behaviours develop over the course of time, so replacing unhealthy behaviours with healthy ones requires time. The Forum is encouraging a step wise approach to nutrition this year placing the emphasis on simple, practical advice so that families can take small steps towards better health that impossible not to achieve.’

Judy More, paediatric dietician and ITF member, said, ‘Many parents are anxious and confused about healthy eating for toddlers we want to encourage all families to take that first step. Providing practical advice, guidance and education is paramount in helping families to get on the right tracks. Our programme this year will cover key topics such as healthy meals, snack and drink options, active play and developmental milestones for food and feeding. The Forum’s annual study day will offer health and childcare professionals the opportunity to explore how they can help and motivate families to make changes.’

The study day, which will be held on 31 October, will focus on nutritional guidance broken down into simple steps such as highlighting the key nutrients required for healthy growth. Practitioners can work with families to encourage children to get into cooking and to introduce them to a wide range of foods as early on as possible to discourage picky eating.


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