99.9 per cent of children under two consume an excess of protein each day, with the average child eating nearly three times what they should.
Toddlers are consuming two-thirds more calories than the recommended daily limit – putting them at risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes in later life.
The Daily Mail reports, a fifth of children are overweight when they start primary school, and a third by the time they leave. But experts are worried that if parents continue to feed their children poorly from an early age the crisis will get even worse.
The researchers from University College London and Oxford and Bristol universities said protein consumption is so high because parents are giving their toddlers too much milk, yoghurt and other dairy products. Once children are weaned on to solids they should not drink too much cow’s milk or formula. But the team found that at 21 months, the average British toddler was getting a quarter of its calories from cow’s milk. The NHS advises they should not get more than 600ml – a little over a pint – a day.
Lead author Hayley Syrad, of UCL’s Health Behaviour Research Centre, said children’s diets are a ‘cause for concern’, adding: ‘Dietary preferences and habits are established during the first two years of life and what we eat in early life can have an enduring impact on our health.’
The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, looked at data for 2,336 children. It found that average daily calorie intake ‘significantly exceeded’ the recommended 968 limit, with 63 per cent of children consuming too many at an average of 1,035. At 40g a day, protein intake was nearly three times higher than the recommended 15g, while fibre intake was 8g – half that recommended.
Dr Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England, said: ‘Obese children are much more likely to become obese adults who are prone to serious illnesses like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
‘We all need to help toddlers get into good eating and drinking habits… including five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, oily fish and starchy foods while limiting sugary, salty and fatty foods and drinks.’
Izzi Seccombe of the Local Government Association, which is responsible for public health for young children, said: ‘Obesity can begin at birth, with increasing evidence that what happens during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can have a big impact on how… they grow up and into adulthood. Intervention at a young age is vital.’
Nutrition Australia recommends, eating 3 serves of dairy every day as part of a healthy, balanced diet will provide most people with their daily calcium requirements. Calcium is one of the 10 essential nutrients naturally found in significant quantities in dairy foods.
One serve of dairy is:
•1 glass (250mL) of milk
•1 tub (200g) of yogurt
•2 slices (40g) of cheese
Eat for health recommend children under three only require 1-1.5 serves of dairy per day.
Under eleven years children require 2 – 2.5 serves of dairy per day.
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