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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


The British journal of nutrition

Publication Date





1843 - 1850


1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health,Health Behaviour Research Centre,University College London,Gower Street,London WC1E 6BT,UK.


Humans, Iron, Dietary, Micronutrients, Vitamin D, Dietary Proteins, Diet, Nutrition Surveys, Linear Models, Cohort Studies, Energy Intake, Socioeconomic Factors, Child, Preschool, Infant, Diet Records, Female, Male, Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena, Recommended Dietary Allowances, United Kingdom