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Dietary guidelines for toddlers and pre-school children in Ireland

Latest scientific recommendations for Food Based Dietary Guidelines for 1-5year olds in Ireland.

The diet of 1-5-year olds involves a transition from what was a predominantly milk-based diet to one which includes foods from all five food groups. The FSAI has published new scientific recommendations for Food Based Dietary Guidelines for 1-5-year olds in Ireland1.

Food-based dietary recommendations 

The recommendations outlined below should be considered in their totality, i.e. the recommendations are not independent of each other. 

Variety

A wide variety of foods should be included in order to increase acceptability of, and familiarisation with, foods that are part of a lifelong healthy diet. 

Milk is a key food in the diets of toddlers and pre-school children      

An important source of a range of nutrients, including protein, and is a critical source of calcium. 

Recommended:

🗸 Daily intake of 550 mL of milk, or equivalent amounts of yogurt or cheese (200 mL of milk = 150 mL of yoghurt = 30 g of cheese)
🗸 Plant based milk replacement beverages (e.g. soya ‘milk’) can be used to replace cow’s milk, provided they are fortified with the same level of nutrients, particularly calcium.
✗ Rice, coconut and almond milks = Not recommended (they are nutritionally inadequate)
🗸 For 1-3yrs: (while not necessary) fortified full-fat milk, follow-on formula and young child formula (e.g. toddler milks) will contribute to the intake of three key nutrients (iron, vitamin D and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids)

 

 

Placeholder image for dairy diets
Placeholder image for dairy diets

Breads, cereals, potatoes, pastas and rice 

An important source of calories and fibre. 

Recommended: 

🗸 Combination of both white and wholemeal breads, cereals, potatoes, pastas and rice will provide adequate fibre.
🗸 For children prone to constipation, an increased proportion of these foods can be given as wholemeal varieties.
🗸 Breakfast cereals fortified with iron and vitamin D.

Vitamin C containing fruit / vegetables + iron-fortified cereal = increase iron absorption.

 

Image for Breads, cereals, potatoes, pastas and rice
Image for Breads, cereals, potatoes, pastas and rice

Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, lentils and smooth nut butters

Important sources of protein, iron, omega 3

Recommended:

🗸 30 g of red meat given approx. 3 times a week, helps ensure adequate iron intake.
🗸 Smaller children (i.e. 1–3year-olds growing at ≤25th percentile level) will require an additional 4 mg of iron/day.
🗸 Unprocessed meats (e.g. lean red meat, chicken, fish, etc.) are preferable.
🗸 Fish should be included at least once a week (important sources of vitamin D and Omega 3 - DHA, EPA)
🗸 Oily fish can be included up to once a week.
🗸 White fish can be eaten twice a week.
🗸 Eggs, beans and lentils are important sources of non-haem iron.
🗸 Beans and lentils provide soluble fibre.

These foods may be used as alternatives to meat, fish and poultry.

Vitamin C containing fruit / vegetables + non-haem iron = increase iron absorption.

Image for Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, lentils and smooth nut butters
Image for Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, lentils and smooth nut butters

Fruit, salad and vegetables

Important sources of vitamins & fibre

Recommended:

🗸 A portion of vegetables should always be included at the main meal.
🗸 In addition, a number of small pieces of fruit, salad or vegetables should be included to match the age in years of the child, as follows:

1 small piece of fruit, salad or vegetables for 1 year-olds
2 small pieces of fruit, salad or vegetables for 2 year-olds
3 small pieces of fruit, salad or vegetables for 3 year-olds
4 small pieces of fruit, salad or vegetables for 4 year-olds
5 small pieces of fruit, salad or vegetables for 5 year-olds

🗸 Small amounts of fruit & vegetables given at different times of the day minimise the risk of overwhelming the child’s capacity to consume other foods.

Image for Fruit, salad and vegetables
Image for Fruit, salad and vegetables

Fats, spreads and oils

To be used minimally.

Recommended:

🗸 A small amount of fat spreads can be added to foods such as bread in order to increase palatability and acceptability.
🗸 Foods should be baked, steamed or grilled.
🗸 Roast potatoes or thick-cut oven chips can be used very occasionally (once a week).
✗ Frying of foods should be avoided.

Image for Fats, spreads and oils
Image for Fats, spreads and oils

Foods high in fat, sugar or salt

Should be limited, as they provide a high proportion of the overall energy requirements but without the essential nutrients.

Recommended:

✗ Foods such as confectionery, cakes, crisps, biscuits, sugar-coated breakfast cereals, etc. are not recommended.
🗸 Small amounts of sugar can be added to nutrient-dense foods (stewed fruit, milk puddings, jam on wholemeal bread, etc.) in order to increase palatability & acceptability.
✗ Snacking on sugary foods & drinks should be avoided in order to protect dental health.
🗸 Dessert options include rice pudding, stewed fruit (with a small amount of added sugar), custard, & jam on toast.
🗸 Salt & salty foods should be limited because high salt intakes can become habitual & linked with CVD in later life. Salt should not be added in cooking.

 

Image for Foods high in fat, sugar or salt
Image for Foods high in fat, sugar or salt

Beverages

Recommended:

🗸 Water and milk are the only drinks recommended for this age group.
✗ Sugar-containing and acidic drinks should be limited and, if consumed at all, should be kept to mealtimes.

 

Image for Beverages
Image for Beverages

Supplements

Recommended:

Vitamin D:

🗸 A low-dose vitamin D-only supplement (5 μg) is recommended for all 1–5year olds.

From Halloween to St Patrick’s Day (i.e. during the extended winter months).

Iron:

🗸 For smaller 1–3year-old children (growing at ≤25th percentile level). An additional 4 mg of iron/day.
🗸 This additional iron can be provided using iron-fortified full fat milks or formulae (containing at least 1 mg of iron/100 mL).
🗸 Alternatively, a low-dose iron supplement providing 7mg can be given 4 days a week.

 

Image for supplements
Image for supplements

Food Pyramid for Young Children

The Department of Health has published a guide to how much food to offer toddlers and pre-school children in Ireland split by age group

Food pyramid for young children
Food pyramid for young children

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