SCOTTISH children are being condemned to life as junk food addicts as early as their first birthday, health experts warned yesterday.
Scotland already has one of the highest child obesity rates in the world, with one in five overweight when they start primary school.
New Scottish Government figures show children aged 12-18 months are gorging on high-sugar, high-calorie foods such as cakes, biscuits and confectionery. The figures, from the Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children in Scotland, show the proportion of children aged 12-18 months consuming biscuits was 72 per cent.
Some 65 per cent of children in the age group are regularly consuming ‘sugar, preserves and confectionery’. The survey also found that 77 per cent of children were given food other than milk before six months of age, which is not in compliance with international and Scottish Government guidelines.
Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum said: ‘We are raising a generation of children addicted to sugar. It keeps parents happy and the food manufacturers happy. Children are consuming too many calories, too quickly, too early, through inappropriate early weaning on inappropriate food. It is a perfect storm.
‘The food is not healthy and then there are the fizzy drinks which are calorie-laden and not nutritious. The result is we have fat and overweight babies at that age. There is also the economics involved and what they are being given is the wrong type of food. It is ready-made indulgence food. They get yesterday’s ground down Chinese leftovers.’
The survey also looked at the diets of mothers, which could be linked with poor dietary choices for their children. It found mothers reported eating crisps and sweets more frequently, drinking sweetened drinks more often, being more likely to use butter as spread and less likely to eat oily fish frequently and to have fresh vegetables available.
Independent Scots nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton said: ‘If you have a hungry toddler who is running around you think, I’ll give them a biscuit. Children are getting too many snacks and we are not giving small enough portions. They don’t need a whole biscuit. Just give them half.’
Recent research indicated women with poor diets were condemning their children to a lifetime of ill-health even before they conceived. A mother’s eating habits before and during pregnancy can have a huge impact on her offspring’s health and success in life, according to Professor Paul Haggarty of Aberdeen University .He said: ‘Research suggests improvements in the early nutritional, emotional and physical environment could have long-term health benefits for brain development and behaviour.’ In Scotland, up to 30 per cent of women are obese when they become pregnant. In addition, the number of births in which the baby is dangerously overweight has soared by up to 20 per cent in some areas.
Scottish Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: ‘In future, if health prevention strategies are to work, that depends significantly on getting the help to parents in the early years and encouraging the right kind of diet and lifestyle. The odd biscuit or sweet isn’t going to harm anyone, but it shouldn’t be a diet to be relied upon.’
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Our Improving Maternal and Infant Nutrition: A Framework for Action is the first framework which looks at the nutrition of mothers before and during pregnancy, supports and promotes the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of a healthy diet throughout early childhood.
‘In line with the World Health Organisation, we recommend babies should be exclusively breastfed for six months, then given suitable complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed.’
SOME 77 per cent of children were given food other than milk before six months of age, in defiance of the recommendation to delay the introduction of solids until then. Most of the children who ate food other than milk almost always had the same food as their parents.
FRUIT AND VEG
FRUIT consumption was significantly lower for children in receipt of Healthy Start vouchers in Scotland compared to the entire sample for both those aged 4-11 months and those aged 12-18 months. Vegetable consumption was significantly lower for those aged 4-11 months.
MOST MEALS EATEN IN FRONT OF THE TV
AFTER a busy day, it’s all too easy to eat your dinner in front of the TV rather than make the effort to have a traditional family meal.
Six out of ten meals consumed in British homes are eaten while watching TV, according to a study.
The survey, which highlights the extent to which millions have abandoned the dining table, found the average person eats 13 meals at home each week, and at least eight are eaten while watching TV. But 45 per cent say they don’t enjoy the food they’re eating.
The research was commissioned by Red Tractor beef and lamb, a logo scheme designed to assure shoppers about the quality and traceability of the beef and lamb they are buying.
Spokesman Jane Ritchie-Smith said: ‘Although there’s nothing wrong with the odd TV dinner, it’s worrying so many aren’t enjoying the food they’re eating.’