Infant and Toddler Forum Position Statement in response to coverage – Going Against the Grain-Which? Cereals Report 2009

Food and nutrition for the under threes highlights results of a survey of what parents are feeding their toddlers. It reveals a heavy reliance on convenience foods and takeaways which can often be inappropriately high in salt, fat and sugar, but low in some key nutrients. Nevertheless many parents still feel that they are providing a healthy diet for their child. With increasing levels of obesity and its associated health problems, it is more important than ever that parents have a clear understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet for their young children. This can be a challenge, especially because much nutritional information on food labels can be confusing. The recently published Which? Cereals Report-Going Against the Grain confirms this problem, pointing out that despite making health claims many cereals are still very high in sugar. In addition, it questions the use of cartoon characters to advertise cereals which are high in sugar and salt. It is preferable to add fruit rather than sugar to cereal, to give it some sweetness for toddlers.

More support and information are needed to help parents choose foods that are nutritious for their children. Parents also need help to understand food labels so that they can easily identify `hidden` salt, sugar or fats.

A diet with excessive amounts of salt, saturated fat and sugar can increase the risk of obesity and of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes in later life. We also know that overweight and obesity start in the preschool years and obese children are more likely to become obese adults.

The Infant & Toddler Forum believe that clear nutritional guidance for parents and carers of all children should be a key public health strategy to ensure children are able to meet their full potential to grow into healthy adults. To help parents and carers make informed food choices, the Forum are committed to providing reliable, practical information on how to make the right food choices using either home-cooked or pre-prepared food.

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