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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 02:33 GMT 03:33 UK
Toddlers eat 'horrifying' diet
Toddler eating
Toddlers are fussy about their food
The quality of toddlers' diets is "horrifying" with junk food prevalent, a survey of parents has shown.

Nine out of 10 toddlers are allowed to eat junk food.

The survey of 2,000 parents by Mother and Baby magazine and Cow & Gate found children's favourite foods include chocolate and crisps.

Eight out of 10 parents admitted their children had worse diets than they had at that age. But few thought they were to blame.

The survey showed more than half of children do not eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables each day.

Children's eating habits
92% are allowed to eat junk food
54% do not eat the recommended amount of fruit and veg
52% are fussy eaters
48% never eat with the whole family
Toddlers are generally not included in family meals, raising fears that they are not taught to eat in a social situation.

The average age of the children whose parents were questioned was 15 months. Just over half of the parents said their child was a "fussy eater".


However, only one in five parents blamed themselves in any way for their children's eating habits.

Karen Pasquali Jones, editor of Mother and Baby magazine, said: "The modern trend for toddlers to eat alone in front of the TV is a recipe for disaster.

"Toddlers need the experience of sitting up at the table - it not only encourages them to eat properly, it improves their speech and social skills and encourages them to try new foods."

Toddlers' favourite foods
1 Chocolate
2 White bread
3 Biscuits
4 Crisps
5 Fish fingers
6 Chips
7 Cake
8 Bananas
9 Apples
10 Chicken nuggets
She added: "The amount of junk food toddlers eat is horrifying. They are the nuggets and chips generation."

The survey also showed the breastfeeding message is not hitting home. Only two-thirds of mothers start off breastfeeding their babies and half of those stop within three months.

A spokeswoman for the British Nutrition Foundation said the findings of the survey into eating habits were in line with other research.

She said it was important that children ate a range of healthy foods and joined in family mealtimes.

"Sitting down to adult type food increases the child's experience, variety and quality of foods and provides an opportunity to have a more nutritious, balanced meal," the spokeswoman said.

"If all they ever see is bread-covered and silly shaped food, that is what they are learning. It resembles fast food and they could progress into a fast food style diet."

The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"The report says we are raising a generation of junk food addicts"

Child diet 'is down to parents'
28 Jan 04  |  Health
Obesity threat to child health
06 Sep 00  |  Scotland

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