UK mums need more guidance on toddler nutrition

UK mums need more guidance on toddler nutrition

When it comes to toddler health and nutrition know-how, UK mums place bottom in comparison to their European counterparts, according to the ‘European Toddler Nutrition Index'.

The research highlights how UK toddler diets fare against their European playgroup contemporaries, and results show that 69 per cent of UK mums are among the least educated in Europe when it comes to toddler health and nutrition, behind only Germany (75 per cent) and Sweden (74 per cent).

The survey also illustrates that a majority of British mums receive no guidance regarding the specific nutritional needs of their toddler during the key developmental toddler years, from one to three, with only 32 per cent being offered specific information and direction on their toddler’s dietary requirements.

In comparison, over half of mums in France (53 per cent) and Spain (52 per cent) are offered helpful toddler nutritional advice.

When UK Mum’s do get toddler specific nutritional guidance, 70 per cent are most likely to get it from their health visitor or a nurse, whereas GPs or paediatricians are relied upon to provide this support in Italy, Spain and France.

It’s clear that UK mothers need more support on this topic to ensure their toddlers are getting all the nutrition they need. I'd suggest.....

Child nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton said: “With childhood obesity remaining high in the UK, it is worrying that some mums are ill-informed about what actually constitutes a healthy weight range and, more importantly, the types and amounts of nutrients that their toddlers need for healthy development.”

The first ever European Toddler Nutrition Index, commissioned by Growingupmilkinfo.com, examines the eating habits of toddlers in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Italy.

It reveals that one in seven UK mums fear their toddler is not getting enough essential vitamins and minerals through their diet, compared to mothers who thought this in Spain (four per cent) and Sweden (six per cent).

Despite childhood obesity being on the increase worldwide, only a fifth of UK mums are worried about their toddler being or becoming overweight or obese, compared to 68 per cent of weight-conscious mothers in Italy and 72 per cent of concerned mums in Spain.

Furthermore, UK mums are also the least likely in Europe to know whether or not their child is overweight, with one in five unsure of the healthy weight range for their toddler, compared to the majority 97 per cent of Spanish mums polled, who knew the recommended weight range.

The new survey also shows that 47 per cent of UK and 42 per cent of Dutch toddlers are fed one home cooked meal a day, compared with a large proportion of children in Italy (78 per cent), Spain (81 per cent), and Germany (58 per cent) who receive meals made from scratch daily.

A quarter of UK mums are also the most likely to opt for adult pre-prepared foods because they seem cheaper than cooking homemade meals, versus just four per cent of Spaniards. Additionally, almost two thirds of UK mums claim not to find the time for home-cooked meals, compared with only a third of Dutch parents.

As Dr Carrie Ruxton added: “Providing toddlers with a healthy diet is not just about preventing obesity. Between the ages of one to three years, toddlers need varied, nutrient-rich diets for normal development.

“Unfortunately, as this survey reveals, UK mums in general don’t seem to be aware of the very specific nutritional requirements toddlers have, which is extremely worrying. There is also a problem with overuse of ready meals, which are generally aimed at adults and may be high in salt which is inappropriate for young children."

The survey further reveals that nine in ten UK mums are unsure of the recommended daily intake (RNI) of vitamin D for toddlers, the highest in Europe, closely followed by France (89 per cent) and Spain (88 per cent). 

UK mums are often mistaken about types of foods that contain vitamin D. While the majority are aware that fortified breakfast cereals and oily fish provide the essential vitamin, just over a third that were polled incorrectly think bananas are a good source of vitamin D. One in ten say nuts and fish fingers do and nearly a fifth state that baked beans can provide the essential vitamin.

Dr Carrie Ruxton continued: “Despite vitamin D being such an essential vitamin for toddlers during these formative years, the survey results reveals that UK mums, more than anywhere else in the European countries polled, know very little about how much vitamin D their toddler needs.

“As so few foods provide vitamin D, it’s worth knowing there are vitamin D fortified products that are easy to offer on a daily basis. For example just two 150ml beakers a day of Growing Up Milk provides 73 per cent of toddlers’ daily dietary requirement of vitamin D.”

Further to that, a fifth of UK mums do not think that toddlers require more vitamins and minerals than an adult (per kg of body weight, per day), with 85 per cent of toddlers eating the same food as the rest of the family ‘most of the time’. 

When in fact, ‘pound for pound’ toddlers require almost four times the amount of iron and vitamin C as adults, around three times the amount of calcium, zinc and vitamin A, and much less salt in their foods than adults in their diets.

The survey shows that the importance of supplementation has been noted by our nation’s mums, with nearly one in three UK mothers citing they thought their toddler was getting enough vitamins and minerals because they provided dietary supplementation, along with a healthy balanced diet. This compares to just one in ten of Spanish mums who provide supplements and instead focus solely on diet.

Dr Carrie Ruxton concluded: “It’s clear that UK mothers need more support on this topic to ensure their toddlers are getting all the nutrition they need. I’d suggest seeking guidance from a healthcare advisor or looking at some of the great online resources, such as Growingupmilkinfo.com, that provide toddler health and nutrition information, as well as meal suggestions.”

To find out more information about toddler health and nutrition, the role that Growing Up Milk can play to support toddler development, and more about the European Toddler Nutrition Index visit www.growingupmilkinfo.com.

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