Pita wedges with colorful hummus dips made with carrots, avocado and beets, a perfect lunch for kids. TNS
The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) issued new guidance on what toddlers should eat to stay healthy, including advice on portion sizes and the importance of limiting sugary cereals, salty crisps and fruit juice.
The organisation's experts say that while vegan and vegetarian diets can be healthy for young children, parents are advised to visit a GP to ask for advice about supplementation of key nutrients.
“It can be difficult for young children to get enough vitamin A and B12, riboflavin, iron, zinc, calcium and iodine,” the organisation states.
Its experts advise serving children on such diets three portions a day from the "protein foods" group, which includes houmous, cooked kidney beans, and peanut butter on bread or toast.
Sara Stanner, science director at the BNF, says families making the decision to adopt vegetarian or vegan diets “need to be aware of how to balance their diet, and use supplements if needed in order to ensure children get all the nutrients they need to be healthy.”
The new 5532 guide has been developed by nutrition scientists and an advisory group of experts in early years’ nutrition.
While milk is described as a “good choice for drinks”, as it provides calcium and other important nutrients, the guidance also recommends parents seek medical advice on supplementation if they are not offering dairy foods to their children.
Children are also advised to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables, three portions of dairy foods and two portions of protein such as eggs, chickpeas.
For example, one portion of pasta is stated as being the equivalent to two to five tablespoons, according to the experts, while a slice of bread is one portion, and a portion of dairy is one cheese ball or two to four tablespoons of grated cheddar.
While fruit juices are said to provide “some important vitamins”, the BNF says that they are also high in sugar and acidic for teeth. As a result, they should only be consumed at mealtimes and should be diluted.
The expert advises parents to check food labels and to look for lower sugar options when choosing foods like breakfast cereals or yoghurts.
Researchers found that telling children about the benefits of certain foods may get them to eat healthier rather than just giving them a healthy food choice without explanation.
Infants and toddlers who consumed baby cereal, such as rice cereal, had higher intakes of key nutrients of concern, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and vitamin E.
A diet heavy on cheap, modern food like instant noodles that fills bellies but lacks key nutrients has left millions of children unhealthily thin or overweight in Southeast Asia, experts say.
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