GROWING UP MILK EUROPEAN TODDLER NUTRITION INDEX
UK TODDLERS PROVE TO BE TOUGHEST FOOD CRITICS IN EUROPE
UK TODDLERS PROVE TO BE TOUGHEST FOOD CRITICS IN EUROPE
European Toddler Nutrition Index examines how UK toddler diets fare against their European playgroup contemporaries
A new survey released today reveals that UK toddlers are discerning diners and the most likely in Europe to refuse food (69%), with one in seven (13%) rejecting some foods at every meal.
The first ever European Toddler Nutrition Index, commissioned by GrowingUpMilkInfo.com, examines the attitudes to diet and food of mums with toddlers in: the United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Italy.
Toddler tantrums spark angst in UK mums
Mealtime tantrums are common in homes across Europe, with nearly one in ten (8%) UK toddlers frequently flinging food they don’t like at the wall or on the floor in protest. Surprisingly, more than a quarter (26%) of UK toddlers refuse meals at least once a day, compared to just one in seven (15%) French toddlers.
Refusing food leaves most UK mums feeling frustrated (51%), worried (38%), upset (24%), and even angry (12%). The result is that more than one in ten UK mums (12%) think they are ‘bad mothers’ when their child refuses food, compared to only a small percentage of Dutch mothers feeling like a bad parent when letting their toddler get away with not eating healthy meals (3%).
Leading child nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton comments: “Toddlers have distinct nutritional requirements that aren’t always easy to meet and, while it can be a struggle to provide them with all of the hard to get nutrients they need, mums will be pleased to know that it isn’t impossible.
“Fussy eating is a daily occurrence for most families and one that we now know is prevalent in the UK, with more children throwing food here than in any of the other European countries polled. Survey results reflect this behaviour is taking its toll on UK mums but it’s important to remember that shouting, bribing with sweet treats or TV only tends to make things worse. A calm approach to mealtimes, using encouragement, stickers, or special playtime as rewards, is more effective.”
UK mums cave under the pressure to please
Over 4 in 10 UK mums (43%) let their toddler get away with not eating certain foods, with almost 38% cracking under the pressure of these demands within the first five minutes.
The survey reveals that UK parents are the most likely of the European countries polled to give sweets, biscuits, chocolate, and fizzy drinks as a reward for eating well or for good behaviour (39%), compared to just one in ten (13%) health-conscious French mums.
Italian mothers are almost three times more likely than UK mums to give in to their toddler’s junk food cravings simply because they demand them.
The survey highlights that almost over a third of German mothers surveyed (38%) are pestered at least once a day for sweets, biscuits, chocolate, and fizzy drinks; the highest percentage in Europe. However, a quarter of these mums remain stern and claim they never give in to toddler tantrum threats.
While obesity in the UK is substantially high compared to other European countries[i], only a fifth (22%) of UK mums expressed worry about their toddler being or becoming overweight or obese, compared with the large number of concerned mothers in Italy (68%) and Spain (72%). Worryingly, the study also finds that one in five (18%) UK mums is unaware whether or not their child is overweight, compared to the majority (97%) of Spanish mums polled, who are more informed.
The 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%) of the European countries polled 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 cannot find the time for home-cooked meals, compared with only a third (32%) of Dutch parents.
Dr Carrie Ruxton adds: “With childhood obesity on the rise in the UK, it is worrying that mums are generally ill-informed about what constitutes a healthy weight range and, more importantly, the nutrients that a toddler needs for healthy development.
“Toddlers have specific nutritional requirements which need to be catered for but adult meals, particularly ready meals, which can be high in salt, are not usually suitable for toddlers. In those vital early years, toddlers need vitamins and minerals to support their development, particularly iron, calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins D and A. However, due to a lack of knowledge amongst mums, there is a risk that UK toddlers will end up with inadequate levels of these.
“It’s clear UK mothers need more support on this topic to ensure their toddlers are getting all the nutrients 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.”
Uninformed UK mums means toddlers are at risk
Nearly seven in ten (69%) UK mums do not receive any information about the specific nutritional needs of their toddler, the third highest in Europe, following Germany (75%) and Sweden (74%).
The survey shows a fifth (20%) of UK mums think that toddlers require no more vitamins and minerals than an adult (per kg of body weight, per day), with a majority (85%) of UK toddlers dining on 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.
UK mums also top the poll when it comes to being the most unaware about Vitamin D requirements for toddlers, with nine out of ten mums (91%) – the highest in Europe - unsure of the recommended daily dietary intake (reference nutrient intake)[ii], 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 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 recommendation for vitamin D.”
· UK Mums most likely to be frustrated by their toddler’s fussy eating (51%) but calm Italian mother are ‘not bothered’ (37%)
· Fussy-eating UK toddlers four times more likely to throw food than Spanish tots
· UK toddlers are rewarded with junk food, with four in ten British mums (39%) giving their child sweets, biscuits, fizzy drinks, and chocolate for good behaviour or eating well
· Nearly seven in ten UK mums (69%) receive no guidance on toddlers’ nutritional needs
· A fifth (18%) of UK mums unaware whether or not their child is overweight or obese
Ranking of Countries Where Toddlers are Most Likely to Refuse Food
United Kingdom (69%)
Ranking of Countries Least Likely to Offer At Least One Home Cooked Meal a Day
United Kingdom (53%)
Ranking of Countries Where Mums Most Likely Reward Good Behaviour or Eating Well with Sweets, Biscuits, Chocolates and Fizzy Drinks
United Kingdom (39%)
Ranking of Countries Least Aware Of Toddlers’ Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin D
United Kingdom (91%)
Ranking of Countries Most Likely to Be Offered Toddler Specific Nutritional Guidance
United Kingdom (32%)
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.
For more information, contact:
Growing Up Milk Info press team
Tel: 0207 693 6999 / E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
[ii] The Reference Nutrient Intake for toddlers is 7 micrograms of vitamin D per day