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Healthy infant eating tips on DVD

Friday, September 19, 2008

Massey nutritionist spells out healthy infant eating tips on DVD

A Massey child nutrition specialist teamed up with a Shortland Street star recently to promote a free DVD for childcare centres aimed at highlighting the need to instil healthy eating habits in infants and toddlers.

Dr Cath Conlon, nutrition lecturer at the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health in Auckland, provided expertise for the DVD, Little Sprouts, developed by international pharmaceutical manufacturer Wyeth Nutrition.

She teamed up with Shortland Street star Te Kohe Tuhaka – alias bad boy Kingi – who shared his own favourite healthy recipes with the audience at this month’s launch of the DVD at Tiny Tots Childcare Centre on the North Shore.

Dr Conlon told parents, caregivers and media the first two years of life are a real "window of opportunity", and noted the importance of establishing healthy eating and exercise habits that remain for a lifetime.

“In a country like New Zealand, we’re fortunate not to see the effects of severe malnutrition very often. But we do see the effects of poor nutrition and we are seeing more children with nutritional deficiencies such as anaemia – due to a lack of iron – and rickets – due to a lack of vitamin D," Dr Conlon says. "We are also seeing more of the effects of over-feeding with even very young children being overweight.”

Encouraging mothers of babies in child care to continue breastfeeding by expressing and storing breast milk was another of the key nutritional messages Dr Conlon voiced at the launch of the DVD in which she appears and which is being distributed to early childhood centres nationwide.

Wyeth Nutrition provided an educational grant for the production of the DVD to create more awareness among early childhood education providers of the nutritional needs of infants from six to 12 months, as well as toddlers, in their care. Their focus on early childhood centres is in recognition of the increasing numbers of young children attending them.

Mr Tuhaka is a trained chef and presenter of the television show Cool Kids Cooking, as well as father and passionate "foodie". Dr Conlon says he gave many inspiring tips for parents and carers on getting children to eat healthy foods such as how to include fruit and vegetables in recipes children will enjoy eating and help prepare.

Dr Conlon says there is room for improvement in several areas. Although there are no national data on what children under-two are eating, smaller studies suggest children are not breastfed for long enough, they are introduced to other foods too early (before six months), and given cow's milk too early (before the age of one).

She says it is important breastfeeding mothers are supported particularly when they return to work.

The current recommendations for infant and toddler feeding can be found in the Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Infants and Toddlers published by the Ministry of Health, which were recently reviewed and updated by a team led by Massey nutrition specialists Dr Carol Wham and Dr Clare Wall.


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