Confused parents feel ‘overwhelmed’ by information when it comes to their children’s nutrition, a study has found.
Half of the 1,000 mums and dads polled said they have no idea whether they are doing the right thing or not for their youngster’s diet.
More than a third are unsure about how big their child’s portion sizes should be, while 38 per cent are confused about how to get the right vitamins their little one needs into their diet.
In fact, the study commissioned by Arla Big Milk revealed 29 per cent would find it easier to get certain vitamins and minerals into their child’s diet through fortified products.
The research also found as many as 72 per cent recognise the importance of vitamin D in helping their youngsters grow, and 67 per cent acknowledge that calcium is also essential.
But even when equipped with the knowledge, more than half of parents still struggle to get the right sustenance into their child because of their fussy eating habits.
Charlotte Stirling-Reed, a baby and child nutritionist, said: “Recommendations around how and what to feed young children can be hard to access.
“And even when recommendations are clearly understood, advice read online or given out by different health care professionals can still be conflicting, leaving parents unsure of how to approach ‘healthy eating’ in children.
“Throw in periods of fussy eating and you can see why getting it right isn’t always as easy as one might think.
“If you’re worried about your little ones eating then it’s worthwhile trying to make the most out of meals and snacks when you can.
“You can do this by adding a handful of nutrient-rich foods into meals and snacks.
“For example I love to add ground nuts into porridge, beans and lentils into pasta sauces and some veggies on the side of main meals.”
The study also found 30 per cent don’t know how to get their little ones to try new foods, while a quarter are confused about when to switch to cow’s milk.
It also emerged 61 per cent of parents of children aged up to seven find it hard to get their kids to eat a varied diet.
Disliking certain fruits and vegetables was the top reason parents struggle to get their children to eat a healthy diet, and almost half admit it is because kids won’t eat foods they don’t like the look of.
It also emerged 45 per cent use dessert as a way of getting their children to eat their dinner, and almost half find it helps if the family all eat together.
Another 16 per cent use vitamins or fortified products to help give their children the right nutrition.
Almost half of parents turn to the internet for advice on children’s nutrition, while others go to their own parents (30 per cent), a doctor (24 per cent) or health care visitor (29 per cent).
The research, carried out via OnePoll, also revealed growth was the top reason why parents think it’s important for their child to get the right nutrition.
A further 69 per cent believe it helps them to build up their immunity from things like colds.
Emma Stanbury, a spokeswoman for Arla Big Milk [https://www.arlafoods.co.uk/brands/arlabigmilk/], added: “It’s so hard as a parent; you’re learning on the job and there is so much information about what is right for your child, when it comes to food and nutrition.
“It’s not always straightforward to get nourishment into children but there are lots of easy ways parents can make small changes to get big nutrients into their diet.
“Simple swaps can often go a long way and at Arla Big Milk, we want to give parents that helping hand to pack their children’s meals with even more goodness.
“Arla Big Milk is fresh whole milk, enriched with vitamin D, vitamin A and iron.”
BABY AND CHILD NUTRITIONIST CHARLOTTE STIRLING-REED’S TOP TIPS FOR PARENTS STRUGGLING AT MEALTIMES
1.) Try to make mealtimes enjoyable. If they’ve become a bit of a battleground, take a step back and find some ways to make everyone enjoy coming to the table again. It may sound easier said than done but, getting kids involved, playing some calm music, or having buffet-style meals can all help.
2.) Take the pressure off. It can be so easy to try and overly encourage children to eat foods they don’t want but sometimes just saying “That’s OK you don’t have to eat it” can actually have the best impact. Giving them some independence around their own food choices often helps them to make a few more positive choices at mealtimes.
3.) Role model as much as you can. By ensuring that you’re eating all the kinds of foods that you want your children to eat, they will, in time, pick up on this as they tend to learn what and how to eat from watching and observing you.
4.) Always think variety! Variety is often really key when trying to get children to eat well. The more variety, the more nutrients your children are likely to be exposed to over the day and the less foods they are likely to refuse as they get older.
5.) Don’t give up. It can sometimes seem like things aren’t working, but children tend to accept what they are familiar with. If your little one doesn’t like broccoli, or fish on the first go, keep trying and eventually you might get there. Avoid pressuring them to “eat up” as that’s unlikely to work, but just keep offering the foods regularly and keep eating it yourself too!
TOP 20 THINGS THAT CONFUSE PARENTS ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN’S DIET
1. How to get the right vitamins into them
2. What foods they are/aren’t allowed to eat at a certain age – like peanuts or peanut butter
3. How big portion sizes should be
4. What vitamins they need
5. How to get them to try new foods
6. How much of certain vitamins they need
7. How to get them to learn to like foods
8. How many snacks they are allowed
9. When to switch them onto cow’s milk
10. How much milk they should drink
11. How much protein they need
12. How much calcium they need
13. How to get them to eat vegetables
14. When it’s ok to stop sterilising things such as they bottles/cups/cutlery etc.
15. How much they are allowed of a certain food
16. When it’s ok to give them sweets/chocolate etc.
17. The weaning process/how to wean them
18. If it’s better for them to snack lots or have three full meals a day
19. What foods to wean them with
20. What kind of milk they should drink e.g. full fat, semi-skimmed etc.