New research links an increased intake of fruit and vegetables to a lower chance of death from cancer, heart disease or stroke

The Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) welcomes new research from a University College London (UCL) study, linking an increased intake of fruit and vegetables to a lower chance of death from cancer, heart disease or stroke, suggesting that eating more than the government recommended “five a day” may have additional health benefits.

The research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day was associated with a 25% lower risk of cancer and 31% lower risk of heart disease or stroke.

In the UK we struggle to eat the recommended five a day, but it’s never too early to start promoting healthy eating habits and a critical window of opportunity is in a child’s earliest years.

Judy More, paediatric dietician and ITF member said: “Although this research focused on adults, offering children fruit and vegetables at all meals and some snacks teaches them that eating fruits and vegetables is normal – a message for them to retain as they become adults. Learning to like vegetables and fruit in their early years can take time; some toddlers need to be offered a new food up to 10 – 14 times before they will be brave enough to try tasting it. Toddlers often prefer the flavour of vegetables that have been stir fried, roasted or baked rather than steamed or boiled. Key tips to help parents teach their young children healthy eating habits include: eating together as a family and making mealtimes relaxed, happy occasions; eating the foods that you would like your toddler to eat and rewarding your toddler with your attention when he or she eats well or tries something new. Young children have good and bad days when it comes to eating and it is best to focus on their intake over a week rather than one day.”

You can track the amounts of different foods your toddlers are eating, using the ITF’s newly launched food calculator app, Tot It Up. The app gives practical advice based on the ITF’s award winning Portion Size Recommendations for 1-4 year olds.


Oyebode, O. et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data.Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health,31 March 2014. Available at:

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Further Reading

  • 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.
  • Encouraging toddlers to keep physically active will help them to develop movement skills, stay a healthy weight and keep a healthy heart. No matter the weather, we have fun activities which will keep your toddler active and entertained this Easter!
  • Pregnant women are given lots of advice surrounding healthy eating and lifestyle, but this is often based on old or outdated information. There are so many myths and misconceptions floating around that it can be difficult for mums-to-be to tell fact from fiction. Here are our tips and guidance, so you can feel confident about having a healthy pregnancy.