FSAI Publishes First Healthy Eating Recommendations for 1-5 Year-Olds
Monday, 22 June 2020
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) published a report today outlining food based dietary guideline recommendations for 1 to 5 year-old children living in Ireland. The latest Irish research on the dietary habits of this age group was used by the FSAI’s Scientific Committee to develop these guidelines, which reflect international best practice on young child feeding in an Irish context. It is the first time a national scientific report addresses the nutritional needs of toddlers and pre-school children living in Ireland. These guidelines cover the gap in Irish scientific dietary recommendations for the post-infancy period – a phase that starts on their 1st birthday and ends at age 5 years, when the general population healthy eating recommendations begin to apply.
According to Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO, FSAI, children in this age group are at a development stage, where their increasing wish is to make their own decisions about what they eat, and this can be challenging.
“We know that dietary habits which can last for a lifetime are formed during this critical phase. We live in an age where there are so many confusing messages and information about food and nutrition, and today’s parents and guardians are facing more challenges than ever to ensure their children are getting the right diet to support their healthy development. Also, many children in this age group develop a preference for sweet, salty and energy-dense foods, which can be difficult for parents and guardians to manage,” said Dr Byrne.
“The recommendations in this report from the FSAI’s Scientific Committee will be the scientific evidence-base provided to the Department of Health, to inform the future national food-based dietary guidelines that will empower parents, guardians and health professionals in Ireland to best support this essential stage in a child’s development,” concluded Dr Byrne.
According to Ms. Ita Saul, Chair of the FSAI Working Group which prepared the report, the period from 1 to 5 years of age is an exciting and challenging time of transition from a predominantly milk-based diet at the end of infancy.
“Toddlers and preschoolers have very high nutritional requirements relative to their size, so there is a real need to focus on the quality of food rather than quantity. The innovative process of using children’s growth chart percentiles as a basis for these dietary recommendations now enables healthcare workers involved in assessing young children’s growth, to identify those at nutritional risk and provide specific advice on fortified foods or supplements.”
Key recommendations from the report include:
These recommendations were developed by the FSAI’s Scientific Committee by modeling over 2,500 daily meal patterns made up of foods commonly eaten by 1 to 5-year old children in Ireland (consumed by more than 10% of children in the Irish National Pre-School Nutrition Survey). Vegetarian patterns were also modeled. Data from a questionnaire and a focused discussion involving paediatric and community dietitians working specifically with this age group provided additional information.
An innovative approach to modeling included consideration of five growth chart percentile levels to ensure the wide range of healthy body sizes in children aged 1 to 5 years were represented. This enabled the linking of growth percentile levels to nutritional risk so that specific recommendations on fortified food or supplements are targeted towards vulnerable children. This enables the wide range of healthcare workers involved in assessing growth to provide such advice where required. The report includes additional relevant recommendations developed for children with special needs.
Dietary intake targets were identified for energy, macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, sugar, dietary fibre, fat, saturated fat, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)) and six key micronutrients (vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, iron, iodine and zinc). The dietary modelling was informed by healthy eating principles and considered girls and boys at five percentiles based on World Health Organization growth charts for six age groups (1 year, 1.5 years, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years and 5 years).
Members of Healthy Eating Guidelines for Toddlers and Pre-schoolers Working Group who developed this report for the FSAI’s Scientific Committee, included those with expertise in paediatric dietetics, nutrition, physical development and activity, behavioural and cognitive development, and dental health.
This content was originally published here.