Toddlers to get healthy lifestlye lessons

An initiative to cut out young children's fussy eating and help combat rising obesity levels is to be rolled out nationally.

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The 10-week “Mini-Mend” programme will be open to all families with children aged two to four, not just those overweight and obese.

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Children taking part in the programme will be encouraged to taste new foods and exercise while their parents will learn about portion sizes and food labelling.

The programme builds on the success of Mend (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition…..Do it!) which caters for obese children, aged eight to 12.

Results from the five pilot schemes, held in London, South Tyneside and Plymouth, were encouraging, with children cutting down TV viewing time, exercising more and becoming more adventurous with their foods.

Public health nutritionist Julia Wolman, of Mini-Mend, said the focus of the new programme would be to encourage all children to a healthier lifestyle by educating the whole family.

“It is primarily a prevention programme, supporting parents to raise their children to be the healthiest they can be to prevent weight-gaining problems in the future,” she added.

“It is family-based and about changing the whole family’s behaviour. The main focus is around encouraging healthy eating and giving a wide choice of fruit and vegetables and discouraging sedentary activity.”

She said that although the focus would not be on a child’s weight, health professionals would be able to refer toddlers they had any concerns about.

“We are trying to ensure that children have a good relationship with food from an early age because fussy eating can also be a problem,” Ms Wolman said.

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Around 30% of UK children are now considered to be overweight or obese, but organisers hope that by targeting the youngest children they can start to reverse the trend.

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