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Good Eating Habits Formed in Early Life

Update Date: Aug 06, 2014 03:01 PM EDT

Healthy palates are developed early in life, according to researchers.

Parents need to take charge and enforce healthy eating habits from infancy to lower rates of childhood obesity and chronic disease associated with being overweight, researchers from Queensland University of Technology said.

The latest study involved analyzed food and drink quantity and diversity of children between 12 months to 16 months old.

"The toddler years are a critical age in the development of long-term food preferences, but this is also the age that autonomy, independence and food fussiness begins," lead researcher Rebecca Byrne from Queensland University of Technology said in a news release.

She noted that childhood obesity rates in Australia have nearly doubled since 1986, and about 21 percent of kids aged two to three are either overweight or obese.

Researchers recommend that parents encourage children to eat nutrient-dense diets that incorporate all five food groups at an early age because food preferences developed during childhood persists well into adulthood.

"Iron deficiency also remains an issue for toddlers in both developed and developing countries," she noted.

"Although most toddlers were consuming a diverse diet, the amount and type of meat or meat alternatives was poor. Almost all children were consuming foods we would consider completely unnecessary at this age, such as sweet biscuits," Byrne concluded.

The findings are published in the journal Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

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