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.

References

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: http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2014/03/03/jech-2013-203500.full

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Further Reading

  • Atul Singhal, Professor of Paediatric Nutrition and Chair of the Infant & Toddler Forum   At the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF), we are committed to giving every child the healthiest start in life. As an expert-led, not-for-profit organisation we have dedicated our work to early life nutrition, from pregnancy to pre-school, because we know that healthy eating habits established in childhood are more likely to last a lifetime.
  • Judy More, Paediatric Dietitian and Registered Nutritionist   As Christmas approaches it can be difficult to plan activities for toddlers! Between decorating, shopping and cooking it may be a challenge to find time to include fun active play with your little one. The Infant & Toddler Forum is here to help with our top tips for maintaining healthy, fun activities for your toddlers during the festive season!
  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Christmas is a joyful time of year, however as a parent it can also be busy and sometimes stressful. Between planning festive gatherings, shopping for the perfect gifts, and decorating your home, thinking about the perfectly portioned festive meal for your toddler can be an added challenge. The Infant & Toddler Forum is here to help you create an easy and delicious Christmas plate that will save you time but more importantly, that your toddler will enjoy!