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Watching television at the weekends and too many unhealthy snacks and drinks are making Europe's "pre-school children pile on the pounds" and a ‘ToyBox’ study aims to address this.
An EU-funded study from 2010 – 2014, ToyBox will develop and test an obesity programme for children aged from four to six years of age. The study will take into consideration the diversities of the participating countries and an intervention will be developed to promote healthy food and fun, active play in pre-schools and day nurseries across Europe.
Dr Yannis Manois, the coordinator of the study would like to see a new approach to obesity prevention. He said that it: “should try to ensure that children have free time and space to be physically active, create a healthy food and drink environment but also guide teachers and parents on how they can promote such behaviours.”
The Infant and Toddler Forum, (ITF) welcome the findings from ToyBox’s study which also highlighted the lack of clear guidelines on healthy eating and active play. The ITF provides expert advice for childcare professionals and families to help them give toddlers nourishment from a healthy diet and enough physical activity to thrive and develop long term healthy eating habits.
Judy More, paediatric dietician and member of the ITF, said: “The toddler years are an ideal time for families to make lifestyle choices to prevent and treat obesity in childhood. The vast majority of obesity is caused by an imbalance between energy intake from food and energy expenditure through activity levels, growth and development.
“We recommend giving toddlers a routine and offering 3 meals and 2-3 snacks each day. By offering 2 courses at each meal and only offering nutritious snacks, toddlers will get a good range of nutrients. Don’t allow grazing on food. Plan for your toddler to have at least 3 hours physical activity every day and about 12 hours sleep. All activity such as active play inside or outside, walking, running and dancing counts. Limit TV and other screen time like computers to just 1 hour a day.”
For easy access to expert advice on how to feed toddlers, see www.infantandtoddlerforum.org