New guidelines from the School Food Trust for early years food and drink provision have been welcomed by leading paediatricians but with the reminder that healthy eating in school alone will not reduce obesity levels.
More than a fifth of children are overweight or obese before they start primary school with studies showing that the majority of those will continue being overweight into adolscence and beyond.
A recent survey by the Soil Association and organic food company Organix described some nursery food as "indefensibly poor" citing those pre-school providers which offered meals short on fruit, vegetables and dietary fibre but high in salt and sugar.
The new guidance advises those cooking for young children to establish good eating habits with information on how to provide a varied diet for the under-fives avoiding too much saturated fat, sugar and salt which can contribute to weight gain, tooth decay and poor nutrient intake.
Children's Minister Sarah Teather has said that "people who work in nurseries lack knowledge of what is the best food to serve", a problem which Dr Atul Singhal, Professor of Paediatric Nutrition and Chair of the Infant & Toddler Forum believes the new guidelines will work towards solving.
"The recommendations from the School Food Trust will help increase knowledge about managing feeding during this crucial stage of childhood development," he said.
"However, toddlers' eating habits are also hugely influenced at home so it is vital that families encourage positive attitudes to food [every day]."
You can read the SFT's guidelines in full at www.schoolfoodtrust.org.uk or for more information and advice on how to feed toddlers well visit www.littlepeoplesplates.co.uk
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