Infant and Toddler Forum Position Statement on – Benefits of homemade weaning diet, Telegraph.

New data from Southampton University published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism indicate that infants weaned on healthy homemade foods grow up leaner than those fed on commercial baby products1.This adds to an increasing body of evidence that there is no substitute for using fresh, nutritious foods to guarantee a healthy start in life. Current guidance on how to feed toddlers is built upon this evidence. However, we do need to consider the barriers to following this advice and acknowledge that not everyone follows the ideal of healthy home cooked foods. Information should be available to help parents using convenience foods as part of their child’s diet to make the best choices.

The Issues

Guidance

While there are clear national nutrition guidelines available on feeding infants under the age of one year and school-age children, there are currently no consistent nutrition guidelines for children between one and three years. Most information available to parents on toddler nutrition is often vague and lacks clear practical advice such as exactly which foods, how much of them and how often they should be eaten.

Knowledge and understanding

Toddlers need nutritious food for rapid growth and development in the pre-school years but a recent survey highlighted parents are confused, simply do not understand their child’s unique nutritional needs and want more information on how to feed their toddlers: The I&TF survey2 showed that 95% of parents said they were following the government guidance to feed their toddler like the rest of the family – but for 44% of mums that means using pre-prepared adult convenience foods which may contain too much salt, sugar and fat for the under threes.

Terminology

There needs to be greater clarification of terms, such as ‘home cooked’ or ‘family foods’ as very often ‘home cooked’ or ‘family foods’ are assembled from prepared ingredients or are based on adult ready meals. This fact was supported in the findings of the I&TF survey which reported that: · Only 35% claim to cook most meals for their toddler from scratch, with fresh ingredients especially for their toddler. 30% of under 3s are mostly offered a meal cooked with pre-prepared ingredients (e.g. ready-made pasta sauce or stock cube, Oxo) · 19% are mostly offered takeaways or adult convenience foods / ready meals both of which often contain high levels of salt, fat and sugar.

Conclusion

There is a great need for more practical information on healthy eating for the parents of toddlers – to provide them with clear interpretations of the guidance and to equip them with the knowledge that will allow them to make the best food choices for the health of their children – whether the food is home cooked or pre-prepared. The Infant & Toddler Forum are committed to the delivery of this information. They have launched ‘Little People’s Plates’ to translate the evidence based, practical information on toddler nutrition produced for healthcare professionals into an accessible and intelligible form for parents. All information is available at www.littlepeoplesplates.co.uk

1. Siân M Robinson, Lynne D Marriott, Sarah R Crozier, Nick C Harvey, Catharine R Gale, Hazel M Inskip, Janis Baird, Catherine M Law Keith M Godfrey, Cyrus Cooper, Southampton Women’s Survey Study Group. Variations in infant feeding practice are associated with body composition in childhood: a prospective cohort study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 May.

2. Infant & Toddler Forum poll of 1,000 mothers with children aged between nine months and three years.

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Further Reading

  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Sugar is everywhere, and the trouble is, a lot of the sugar we eat can be hidden in the food we buy – and often in foods we wouldn’t expect! It is no secret that a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet is essential for toddlers’ growth and development, and this includes keeping a close eye on their sugar consumption. The question of just how much sugar is healthy for young children to consume is one on many parents’ lips. Our guide below aims to demystify sugar consumption and provide tips and advice on how to keep your child’s sugar intake within the recommended amounts.
  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Nothing describes a rollercoaster more accurately than the early months with your newborn baby. With the rush of love and amazing bonding experience that many new parents feel also comes numerous unknowns and challenges which can cause high levels of anxiety. Not always having the answer or being unsure of where to look for trusted information can naturally leave some parents feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Vegetarian and vegan diets have become increasingly popular over the past few years, with more and more parents raising their children on a plant-based diet. Toddlers have high-energy needs and small stomachs, so it is important parents know how to ensure their child gets all the nutrients needed for healthy growth and development. The Infant & Toddler Forum are here to help with practical tips and advice for parents considering a vegetarian or vegan diet for their toddler.