A new survey released today reveals UK mums are among the least educated in Europe when it comes to toddler health and nutrition (69%), behind only Germany (75%) and Sweden (74%).
Most British mums (69%) receive no guidance regarding the specific nutritional needs of their toddler during the key developmental toddler years, from one to three. The survey shows that, compared with the European countries polled, the United Kingdom (32%) is lagging behind France (53%) and Spain (52%), where mums are provided with this guidance. When UK Mum’s do get toddler specific nutritional guidance, they are most likely to get it from their health visitor or a nurse (70%), whereas GPs or paediatricians are relied upon to provide guidance in Italy (92%), Spain (84%) and France (83%).
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, and reveals one in seven (14%) UK mums fear their toddler is not getting enough essential vitamins and minerals through their diet, compared to Spain (4%) and Sweden (6%).
Despite childhood obesity being on the increase worldwide[i], only a fifth (22%) of UK mums are worried about their toddler being or becoming overweight or obese, compared to weight-conscious mothers in Italy (68%) and Spain (72%). However, UK mums are also the least likely in Europe to know whether or not their child is overweight, with one in five (18%) unsure of the healthy weight range for their toddler, compared to the majority (97%) of Spanish mums polled who knew the recommended weight range.
Leading child nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton comments: “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.”
Toddler Diets Across the Continent
The new survey shows that under half (47%) of UK and Dutch (42%) toddlers are fed one home cooked meal a day, compared with a large proportion of children in Italy (78%), Spain (81%), and Germany (58%) who receive meals made from scratch daily. UK mums are also the most likely (24%) to opt for adult pre-prepared foods because they seem cheaper than cooking homemade meals, versus just 4% of Spaniards. Additionally, almost two thirds (63%) of UK mums claim not to find the time for home-cooked meals, compared with only a third (32%) of Dutch parents.
It’s clear that UK mothers need more support on this topic to ensure their toddlers are getting all the nutrition they need - Dr Carrie Ruxton
As Dr Carrie Ruxton continues: “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.
“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.”
Vitamin D in Europe
The survey reveals that nine in ten (91%) UK mums are unsure of the recommended daily intake (RNI) of vitamin D for toddlers[ii], the highest in Europe, closely followed by France (89%) and Spain (88%). 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, more than a third (37%) of UK mums who were polled incorrectly think bananas are a good source of vitamin D. One in ten say nuts (13%) and fish fingers (10%) do and nearly a fifth (17%) state that baked beans can provide the essential vitamin.
Dr Carrie Ruxton adds: “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% of toddlers’ daily dietary requirement of vitamin D.”
Further to that, a fifth (20%) of UK mums do not think that toddlers require more vitamins and minerals than an adult (per kg of body weight, per day), with a majority (85%) 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 (28%), along with a healthy balanced diet (88%). This compares to just one in ten (9%) of Spanish mums who provide supplements and instead focus solely on diet (92%).
Ranking of Countries Offering the Most Toddler Specific Nutritional Guidance
United Kingdom (32%)
Ranking of Countries Least Knowledgeable of Toddler Weight Guidelines
United Kingdom (18%)
Ranking of Countries Least Likely to Offer At Least One Home Cooked Meal a Day
United Kingdom (53%)
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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