The latest statistics from the National Child Measurement Programme, show that over a fifth of pre-school children were still found to be overweight or obese. And by the time they reach 11 years old this figure is over 33%. Despite the slight decrease year on year, it’s still a concern that children are becoming overweight at such a young age.
It is clear we need to act earlier and identify those at risk sooner through more regular measurement in the earliest years, particularly in areas of deprivation. Early nutrition and its implications for later health are a public health concern and everyone's responsibility.
Judy More, paediatric dietitian and member of the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF), said:
“Education is paramount if we are to help families overcome the causes of obesity. Families with young children need support to begin and sustain healthy habits. Simple, clear advice on how to encourage healthy habits for life. For example; what foods to offer; what behaviours to encourage and how to manage snacks and mealtimes. Portion size is critical in the fight against obesity, as the amount some children eat is determined by how much is on their plate.
“If we are going to halt the obesity epidemic, we need to act now and as early as possible in the life cycle. Research shows that mothers being overweight before conception and/or, during pregnancy increases the risk of her child becoming overweight.
“Prevention of overweight and obesity before the age of five is key to stopping the rise in childhood obesity. A universal recommendation to measure children annually between two years and five years would identify those young children who are at risk.
“Our report Early Nutrition for Later Health: Time to Act Earlier, highlights the need to take a life course approach to health and wellbeing starting before pregnancy, and continuing throughout the very early years to improve the health of the next generation.”
Visit the ITF website for practical resources, including “Portion Sizes for Children aged 1-4 years” and “Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers”.