Sharing food guidelines with a parent who is feeding their toddler can be a struggle. With fussy eaters, developing taste buds and of course a toddler with a mind of their own, it is not surprising really to see that the majority of  “us parents” don’t follow the recommended food guidelines for their toddler.  With so many other distractions it is not easy.

Research has shown that only 14% of parents follow the recommended serving
frequency for each of the food groups when feeding their children

The Infant & Toddler Forum finds that whilst the majority of the nation’s parents are confident about what food groups to include in their child’s diet, they struggle to put their knowledge into practice. Over a third are worried they do not give their children the right balance of foods and more than a quarter (26%) feel their child is not getting enough variety.

Food Guidelines for parents

Amongst the surveyed parents of children aged 1-5, whilst 80% of them correctly identified the key food groups that when combined form a balanced diet, improving their know how is key, and nearly a third take the advice given to them by experts on what they should be feeding their children.

Few parents also know how often to include the food groups over the day. Only about half of the parents were aware that they should offer their toddler meat, fish, eggs, nuts and pulses two or three times a day despite it being the most important food group for iron, which one in eight toddlers don’t get enough of in their diet.

Toddler portion sizes for meals during the day - food guidelines for parents

Similarly, nearly 65 % of the surveyed parents mistakenly thought they should only offer their toddler starchy food; like bread, rice and pasta, once or twice a day, with only 28 % being aware that they need to be offered 3-to-5 times a day.

“Some parents find feeding their toddlers a challenge as they are not sure about the best foods to offer, and how much they should expect their toddler to eat.  However, we know that those working with and caring for toddlers are constantly innovating to solve everyday challenges. So, who better to recommend practical ideas to help take the guidance and make it easy for everyone to use’.

Judy More, Paediatric dietitian and member of the ITF

Parents were found to be cautious of sugary foods

Nearly a quarter of parents think there should be a complete ban on giving their child cakes, biscuits and sweet puddings, yet it is acceptable for children to have these foods once a day. But confectionery and sweet drinks, including fruit juices, need to be limited to once a week.

When it comes to seeking advice on their child’s diet, about a third turn to fellow parents when out of ideas on how to manage their child’s diet and almost four in 10 use the internet and social media platforms to learn new recipes.

“It’s never too early to start promoting positive behaviour and healthy eating habits to help parents strike the right balance in their toddlers’ diets Following on from last year’s #rethinktoddlerportionsizes campaign, the Infant & Toddler Forum are calling upon parents to share their practical ideas to feed toddlers well at every meal time via a new ideas-sharing online community.

Dr Gillian Harris, Child and Clinical psychologist and member of the ITF

For more information on toddler nutrition and recipes