ESTABLISHING GOOD HABITS: Eating patterns and preferences are formed in the early years of life.
American children as young as 12 months are developing unhealthy dietary patterns which may lead to obesity in later life, according to a study by Nestlé Nutrition.
The findings were presented at The Obesity Society’s annual scientific meeting in Orlando in the United States.
The research found that toddlers from the age of 12 months and up consumed one third of their daily calories from snacking between meals.
“We’re seeing poor eating habits starting early in life, and they mirror those of older children and adults,” said Dr Kathleen Reidy, Global Head of Nutrition Science, Baby Food, at Nestlé Nutrition.
“It’s important to establish the foundation for healthy diets early in life when eating habits and preferences are being formed.”
In the United States, 10% of young children aged between two and five are categorised as obese.
The study found that parents and guardians need better nutrition guidance to help young children develop healthy eating habits from 12 months upwards.
It is much easier to establish good habits when children are young rather than try to correct poor habits later. Dr Kathleen Reidy, Global Head of Nutrition Science, Baby Food, at Nestlé Nutrition
It showed that simple dietary changes can make significant improvements in the quality of children’s diets.
For example, parents should consider snacks as ‘mini-meals’ and offer healthy options such as fruits, vegetables, low fat yoghurt, and whole grain foods.
“It is much easier to establish good habits when children are young rather than try to correct poor habits later,” Dr Reidy continued.
“Parents need consistent messages about how to feed young children in a healthy way.
“If we can help educate parents on the impact that relatively simple dietary changes can have, we may be able to help prevent obesity and chronic disease in future generations.”
Largest ever study
The Nestlé Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study began in 2002.
More than 3,200 children are included in the survey. This makes it the largest, most comprehensive study of the diets and eating habits of infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers in the United States.
It was expanded in 2008 to find out whether the eating habits of young children in America had changed since 2002.
It has looked at the evolution of children’s diets from birth through to preschool, including sources of calories, key nutrients and snacking patterns.
The study was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, a research organisation.
Nestlé Nutrition Institute website
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