Does your baby need to go on a diet?

Nutrition for children under two is essential for lifelong health.

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) is urging parents to consider the diets of their children to build long-lasting healthy habits.

Professor of Public Health Nutrition Research Jane Scott said the Australian Government needs to step in to establish dietary guidelines for children aged under 24 months.

“In the first two years of a child’s life, food and nutrition play a significant role,” Prof. Scott said.

“Not only do children experience high rates of growth and development, but they also establish food preferences.”

The move to establish dietary guidelines comes after data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) revealed one in five (20%) children aged under five were obese or overweight.

The AIHW found children who were overweight or obese were at risk of developing breathing difficulties, chronic health conditions and were likely to remain overweight or obese into adulthood.

Prof. Scott said dietary decisions should be made as soon as children transition from liquids to solids.

“Little is known about the food choices of children as they transition from a milk-based diet to the family diet,” Prof. Scott said.

“Increased consumption of salt and processed foods are key contributors to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and isn’t the way to set our kids up for healthy food habits.”

Prof. Scott said change was needed as Australia has not developed a new National Nutrition Policy in 26 years.

“Prevention is better than a cure,” Prof. Scott said.

“A more detailed food and nutrition policy would help reduce confusion for parents around what foods are best for children.

“We need to encourage healthy habits in children’s first 1000 days and give them the best start in life.”

The diets of Australian children

  • One in five toddlers are low in iron. 
  • Junk food is often introduced in children’s second year of life. 
  • More than 50% of children aged 18 months consume more than their daily levels of sodium (1000mg/day). 
  • Seven in 10 children aged 24 months consume more than 5% of their energy from sugars found in soft drinks, fruit juices and processed foods.