Children aged between one and five should be given Vitamin D supplements in winter and red meat at least three days a week, according to new guidelines from Ireland’s food safety watchdog.
It has also said plant-based “milks”, sugar-coated cereals and drinks other than milk and water should be avoided.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) on Monday published dietary recommendations for very young children for the first time.
The authority said the guidelines would cover a gap in Irish scientific dietary recommendations for the post-infancy period – which starts on a child’s 1st birthday until they are five – after which general population healthy eating recommendations apply.
The report described milk as “a key food” with a daily intake of 550ml of cow’s milk or equivalent amounts of yoghurt or cheese, recommended.
It says water and milk are the only drinks recommended while sugary and acidic drinks should be limited and, if consumed at all, confined to mealtimes.
Parents and guardians are warned against using almond ‘milk’, coconut ‘milk’ and rice ‘milk’, as milk substitutes as these are nutritionally inadequate.
The report says if plant-based beverages are needed to replace cow’s milk, a soya ‘milk’, can be used, provided it is fortified with nutrients, particularly calcium.
A portion of vegetables should always be included at the main meal, together with the number of small portions of salad, vegetables or fruit that match the age of the child, for example two small portions for a two-year-old, four small portions for a four-year-old.
Portion sizes given should fit into the child’s hand so that smaller children are given less and bigger children more. Around 30g of lean red meat is recommended three days a week for iron and other essential minerals in addition to protein.
On other days, red meat can be replaced with poultry, fish, eggs, beans or lentils which also provide iron, as well protein and minerals.
Smooth nut butters also provide protein, the FSAI said.
A combination of white and wholemeal breads, cereals, potatoes,…