Fine Gael TD for Sligo, Leitrim, South Donegal and North Roscommon and Minister for State at the Department for Health, Boyle native Frank Feighan together with the Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman TD and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD today jointly launched the first ever National Healthy Eating Guidelines for one to four year olds.
The new guidelines aim to help parents establish good eating habits in their children. Developed by nutrition experts in Ireland, the guidlelines are based on Irish dietary evidence. They include a newly designed children’s food pyramid which will help people understand what their child should be eating, what portion sizes look like and how seldom treats should be given.
This early stage in a child’s life is well recognised as a critical phase when dietary habits are formed. With so many confusing messages and information about food it can be difficult for parents to know what to feed their child.
Speaking at the launch of the guidelines Minister Feighan said:
‘I am of the view that every parent wants to give their children the best possible start in life. So this is why getting their diet right from an early age is of huge importance for our children’s future development. Whilst acknowledging just how challenging it can be when trying to feed younger children, this new suite of resources launched today will help parents and others to understand the issues around healthy eating for children much better and they will help families through the initial years of a child’s life up until they are four years old.
A critical message coming from these new guidelines is that we really need to recognise that small children have small tummies and as a result we need to be mindful of the portion sizes that we’re giving them when eating. The Children’s Food Pyramid will help to assist families to make healthier choices for their child as it provides a range of information on the number of servings from each shelf needed at different ages. It also recognises that some children of the same age will need more food and some will need less.
Our children are better at making changes when the whole family do it together and I strongly recommend that families try to make these positive changes together. Small changes made now can make a big difference later in life. The development of these resources will ultimately help improve the health and wellbeing of children and their families, and as a result they are an important foundation in the implementation of the Healthy Ireland framework’
Included in the guidance is new advice for parents on Vitamin D for children aged one to four. Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones and teeth and young children living in Ireland don’t get enough of it in the winter months. The new advice is that children aged one to four take a vitamin D supplement every day from Halloween (31st October) to St Patrick’s Day (17th March).