For years nutritionists have recommended a diet high in fiber and low in fat, with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Now, however, nurseries are being told the food they serve in accordance with these guidelines is unsuitable for toddlers and could lead to vitamin deficiencies and even stunted growth. 'Nurseries are applying the principles of adult healthy eating to the food they are supplying to young children,' said Sarah Almond, a consultant specialist pediatric dietician who has analyzed the results of a trading standards study into nursery food. 'We expected the study to show nurseries were serving children food that was too high in calories, fat, saturated fat and salt, and low in vegetables and fruit. Instead, we found that the majority of nurseries had gone to the other extreme and appeared to be providing food that was too low in calories, fat and saturated fat and too high in fruit and vegetables.' This situation was putting children at the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies, she said.
In addition, too much fiber - such as that absorbed through over-consumption of fruit and vegetables - can result in insufficient intake of other food groups and inhibit the absorption of key minerals. 'Because a significant number of children attend nurseries from 7am until 7pm, the food and nutrition they receive there are key to their health,' said Almond. 'Nurseries are applying requirements of healthy eating for school-age children and adults to the one-to-four age group, who have entirely different requirements.'