Experts in early years nutrition and development welcome research on TV-watching and junk food

The Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) welcomes the announcement from the ToyBox-study, which states that “TV-watching at weekends and consuming too many unhealthy snacks and soft drinks are making pre-school children pile on the pounds.”

The coordinator of the study, Dr Yannis Manios, has called for a new approach to obesity prevention and said that it “should try to ensure that children have free time and space to be physically active, create a healthy food and drink environment but also guide teachers and parents on how they can promote such behaviours.”

The announcement also highlighted the lack of clear guidelines on healthy eating and active play. The ITF provides expert advice and tools for health and child care professionals and families to help them give toddlers the food and physical activity needed to thrive and develop healthy eating habits.

Judy More, paediatric dietitian and member of the ITF, said, “The toddler years are an ideal time for families to make lifestyle choices to prevent and treat obesity in childhood. The vast majority of obesity is caused by an imbalance between energy intake from food and energy expenditure through activity levels, growth and development. We recommend giving toddlers a routine and offering 3 meals and 2-3 snacks each day. By offering 2 courses at each meal and only offering nutritious snacks, toddlers will get a good range of nutrients. Don’t allow grazing on food. Plan for your toddler to have at least 3 hours physical activity every day and about 12 hours sleep. All activity such as active play inside or outside, walking, running and dancing counts. Limit TV and other screen time like computers to just 1 hour a day.”

Just two of the ITF’s evidence-based, practical resources include:

Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers

To approach mealtimes with confidence, parents and carers need consistent, trustworthy advice. The ‘Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers’ is a practical, easy-to-follow guide on what food to offer, what behaviour to encourage, and how best to manage mealtimes.

Portion Sizes for Toddlers: 1-4 Years

The ITF’s portion size ranges can be used as a guide for how much of each food to offer your toddler and they have been designed to ensure that his/her energy and nutrient requirements are met. (Except vitamin D, for which all toddlers need a supplement). You can be reassured that if your toddler is eating within the range of portion sizes of a particular food, then he/she is eating enough of that food.

For easy access to expert advice on how to feed toddlers, see

The Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) is an independent group of leading experts from paediatrics, neonatology, health visiting, dietetics and child psychology, specialising in early years nutrition and development.

The ITF is supported by an educational grant from the Infant Nutrition division of Danone UK. The views and outputs of the group, however, remain independent of Danone UK and its commercial interests.

If you have press office enquiries, please contact Becky Darke on 020 8971 6408 or

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Further Reading

  • By Melanie Pilcher and Dr. Gillian Harris Establishing bedtime routines for toddlers and young children
  • By Dr. Gillian Harris, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Applied Developmental Psychology at the University of Birmingham and ITF member Most parents will struggle at some point to get their toddlers to eat certain foods. Is toddler food refusal a sign of an eating disorder. or is it merely a phase? In the run up to Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Gill Harris provides practical advice to help parents tackle fussy eating in toddlers.  
  • By Lucy Upton, on behalf of the Infant and Toddler Forum On behalf of the members of the Infant and Toddler Forum, I am proud to announce the launch of a new infant feeding educational programme, which includes practical resources for frontline healthcare professionals (HCPs) working with parents and infants.