Survey results find that only 20% of children eat vegetables every day

The Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) responds to research results from a new survey commissioned by Vouchercloud – showing that only one in five children eats vegetables every day, and that one in ten totally refuses to eat vegetables – by offering simple, practical advice for parents, carers and healthcare professionals on food and feeding.

The study polled 1,912 parents with children aged 10 or under and the results are not surprising because children prefer familiar foods and parents tend to offer those foods that they know their children will eat. Children need to be encouraged to try new foods and it is best to begin healthy eating habits early because babies are usually happy to try new tastes during weaning. Attitudes to food change in the second year and fussy toddlers may refuse vegetables.

Parents’ best strategy at this time is to role model by eating with their children and eating the vegetables they want their children to eat. As children grow older it is really important to keep this up and to offer vegetables at both the midday and evening meals because taste preferences and eating habits influence health.

Judy More, paediatric dietitian and ITF member said: “Young children need nutritious food for their rapid growth and development, but prefer familiar foods and also have good and bad days when it comes to eating. Some toddlers need to be offered a new food up to 10 – 14 times before they will be brave enough to try tasting it. An emphasis on developing healthy eating habits early in life and nutritional guidance for the early years should be a key public health strategy. We need to, not only prevent childhood dietary deficiencies, but also prevent children becoming overweight and obese because many of them will remain so as adults with the associated risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.”

Celebrating its ten year anniversary, the ITF is taking a life course approach to nutrition and health, exploring the early connection through pregnancy, infancy and toddlerhood. Our aim is to support and empower families to make healthy lifestyle choices by delivering clear, practical advice on those critical early windows of opportunity to provide children with the best start in life.

Notes to editors

Childhood overweight and obesity remains at about 30% and this level shows no signs of declining.

i. Health and Social Care Information Centre, Lifestyles Statistics. Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet: England, 2013, London.
Available at http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB10364/obes-phys-acti-diet-eng-2013-rep.pdf Last accessed 21.02.14

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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.