Data on the diets of young children in the UK are limited, despite growing evidence of the importance of early diet for long-term health. We used the largest contemporary dietary data set to describe the intake of 21-month-old children in the UK. Parents of 2336 children aged 21 months from the UK Gemini twin cohort completed 3-d diet diaries in 2008/2009. Family background information was obtained from questionnaires completed 8 months after birth. Mean total daily intakes of energy, macronutrients (g and %E) and micronutrients from food and beverages, including and excluding supplements, were derived. Comparisons with UK dietary reference values (DRV) were made using t tests and general linear regression models, respectively. Daily energy intake (kJ), protein (g) and most micronutrients exceeded DRV, except for vitamin D and Fe, where 96 or 84 % and 70 or 6 % of children did not achieve the reference nutrient intake or lower reference nutrient intake (LRNI), respectively, even with supplementation. These findings reflect similar observations in the smaller sample of children aged 18-36 months in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. At a population level, young children in the UK are exceeding recommended daily intakes of energy and protein, potentially increasing their risk of obesity. The majority of children are not meeting the LRNI for vitamin D, largely reflecting inadequate use of the supplements recommended at this age. Parents may need more guidance on how to achieve healthy energy and nutrient intakes for young children.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Nutr

Publication Date





1843 - 1850


%E percentage of daily energy intake, Children, DRV dietary reference value, Diets, Energy intakes, LRNI lower reference nutrient intakes, NDNS National Diet and Nutrition Survey, Nutrition, RNI reference nutrient intake, SACN Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, SES socio-economic status, Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena, Child, Preschool, Cohort Studies, Diet, Diet Records, Dietary Proteins, Energy Intake, Female, Humans, Infant, Iron, Dietary, Linear Models, Male, Micronutrients, Nutrition Surveys, Recommended Dietary Allowances, Socioeconomic Factors, United Kingdom, Vitamin D