fussytoddlerMore than half of UK mothers say they are "frustrated" by their children's eating habits according to a new pan-European survey.

The survey by nutritionists from GrowingUpMilkInfo.com looked at the eating habits of over 2,500 under-fives in the UK, Germany, Holland, France, Sweden and Spain and found that British children were, on average, the fussiest of the bunch.

In total, 69 per cent of UK mothers said their child would sometimes refuse to eat what they are given, with more than a quarter of toddlers ignoring food on a daily basis.

Child nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton helped to compile the findings and said: "Toddlers have distinct nutritional requirements that aren’t always easy to meet and, while it can be a struggle to provide them with all of the hard to get nutrients they need, mums will be pleased to know that it isn’t impossible.

“Fussy eating is a daily occurrence for most families and one that we now know is prevalent in the UK, with more children throwing food here than in any of the other European countries polled. This behaviour is taking its toll on UK mums but it’s important to remember that shouting, bribing with sweet treats or TV only tends to make things worse. A calm approach to mealtimes, using encouragement, stickers, or special playtime as rewards, is more effective.”

The survey also suggested that UK mothers were the most likely to try to bribe their toddlers with unhealthy snacks, something experts say can often create negative re-enforcement and is a key cause of 12 per cent of mums saying mealtime struggles make them feel like a "bad parent".

However, Dr Ruxton believes that an equally key part of the problem was a lack of education on child nutrition.

Around 70 per cent of mothers told researchers they had never received guidance on their children's nutritional needs, and nearly a fifth do not know whether or not their toddlers are overweight.

"With childhood obesity on the rise in the UK, it is worrying that mums are generally ill-informed about what constitutes a healthy weight range and, more importantly, the nutrients that a toddler needs for healthy development," added Dr Ruxton.

"Toddlers have specific nutritional requirements which need to be catered for but adult meals, particularly ready meals, which can be high in salt, are not usually suitable for toddlers. In those vital early years, toddlers need vitamins and minerals to support their development, particularly iron, calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins D and A. However, due to a lack of knowledge amongst mums, there is a risk that UK toddlers will end up with inadequate levels of these.

"It’s clear UK mothers need more support on this topic to ensure their toddlers are getting all the nutrients 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."

Posted 23/01/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com