Small steps today for healthy feeding, growth and development tomorrow

Experts call for a back to basics approach to early years nutrition to help all families take small steps towards life-long health

As evidence continues to mount, supporting the need to embed early childhood nutrition in all aspects of family, child and health policy, the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) is going back to basics in 2013 to deliver clear, consistent, messages on healthy eating. Its aim is to help families instil healthier attitudes in their children for lifelong health, one small step at a time; through a practical-based programme of every-day tips on which foods to offer and which behaviours to encourage as early on as possible.

The stark reality of health in Britain today could not be more compelling, with a whole generation at risk of dying prematurely due to diet related ill-health. Obesity is a major public health issue for all but with over 90 per cent of the excess weight in 9 year old girls, and over 70 per cent in 9 year old boys, gained before the child ever gets to school age, it’s clear public health education should focus on the early years if we are to make a difference. In addition, the number of children developing diabetes has rocketed in recent years, making it the fastest growing childhood disease.

The EarlyBird Diabetes Study1 found that the seeds of diabetes are sown very early in life and that left unchecked, one in five children born today will develop diabetes.

It’s not just about overweight and obesity. Dental decay is also a major concern; over 30 per cent of children in the UK will have dental decay by the time they are five years old. In addition, vitamin D deficiency is on the increase with the resurgence of rickets in the toddler age group. Yet, the Demos For Starters report highlighted that nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of mothers reported they had never been advised to give a vitamin supplement to their baby or toddler, despite it being an official government recommendation that babies aged six months plus should have vitamin drops with vitamins A, C and D.

Dr Atul Singhal, Professor of Paediatric Nutrition at the UCL Institute of Child Health and Chair of the ITF, said: “We are clearly in a position of needing to balance the risks of excess and the risks of deficiency. We know what happens to children in their earliest years is key to health outcomes in adult life. We also know that making lifestyle changes can be a challenge. Unhealthy behaviours develop over the course of time, so replacing unhealthy behaviours with healthy ones requires time. The Forum is encouraging a step wise approach to nutrition this year placing the emphasis on simple, practical advice so that families can take small steps towards better health that are impossible not to achieve.”

Judy More, paediatric dietitian and ITF member explained, “Many parents are anxious and confused about healthy eating for toddlers we want to encourage all families to take that first step. Providing practical advice, guidance and education is paramount in helping families get on the right track. Our programme this year will cover key topics such as healthy meal, snack and drink options, active play and developmental milestones for food and feeding. The Forum’s annual Study Day will offer health and childcare professionals the opportunity to explore how they can help and motivate families to make changes.”

Finally, the ITF are committed to encouraging wider adoption of its Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers. Through working with key partners and stakeholders in the early years arena, the initial results from the national rollout programme are encouraging. The Ten Steps initiative was highlighted as best practice guidance in the Demos For Starters report is a ‘promising tool to support early years practitioners to work with young children and their parents to support healthy eating’.

Take that first step and visit the ITF website to access our latest ‘back to basics’ advice on Meals, snacks and drinks www.infantandtoddlerforum.org

If you have press office enquiries, please contact Claire Johnson, on 020 8971 6419 cjohnson@saycomms.co.uk

Notes to editors

The 2013 Infant & Toddler Forum Study Day is taking place on the 31st October at The Royal Society of Medicine, London.

New Factsheet and Guidance & Tips, Meal’s, Snacks and Drinks, provides a practical overview of what foods and drinks to offer and how to combine foods from the five food groups to create nutritious meals.

The Infant & Toddler Forum brings together an independent, multi-disciplinary team of experts and practitioners from paediatrics, neonatology, health visiting, dietetics, and child psychology, to share new ideas and to debate the latest thinking in infant and toddler nutrition. Best practice guidance on food and feeding for all young families is paramount for children’s health and wellbeing now and in the future For more than seven years the Forum and its partners have strived to raise awareness and promote positive change in the field of toddler nutrition and feeding behaviour, with all guidance being in alignment with DoH increased emphasis on early years intervention.

The Infant & Toddler Forum is supported by an educational grant from Danone Baby Nutrition. All resources produced by the Forum represent the independent views of the Forum with whom copyright rests.

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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.