Experts agree that what children eat from birth to five years old matters even more than their diet later on in childhood. But many little ones are not getting the nutrition they need to support their rapid growth and development. Nutritional problems are common among this age group, including iron deficiency anaemia and deficiencies of vitamin A, D, B6, folate, calcium and zinc; constipation is widespread, as are dental caries.
Almost a quarter of UK pre-school children are overweight or obese, with about ten per cent underweight, according to paediatric dietician Judy More, writing in the Journal of Family Health Care.
Poor diet also has a marked effect on education. The ‘Children of the 90s’ longitudinal study by the Institute of Education at the University of Bristol, which is following more than 14,000 families with babies born between April 1991 and December 1992, showed that children who ate a diet of ‘junk’ food (high in fat and sugar, eg, crisps, sweets and fizzy drinks, highly processed food, and takeaways) at the age of three made poorer progress than average at school between the ages of six and ten.
This year, a survey of 1,000 parents by the Infant and Toddler Forum found nearly a third of under-threes eat at least one takeaway a week, and 19 per cent are given takeaways or adult ready meals every day. A staggering 20 per cent of babies aged nine to 12 months were given a takeaway once a week.
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