Mothers are being told to feed their babies chocolate and crisps in an advice leaflet from an NHS hospital, it emerged last night.
The guidance – given to parents at feeding clinics – recommends giving young children over eight months snacks to help overcome feeding problems.
But the leaflet from Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has raised concerns children will be encouraged to eat unhealthy foods from an early age.
Dave Munday, who works with the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, said parents should give their children ‘healthy foods that are not going to get them into bad habits’.
He told The Telegraph: ‘There are lots of foods out there that you would try before the foods being suggested in this leaflet.’
Wotsits and Quavers are among the snacks recommended in the leaflet to help a child ‘bite and dissolve’ food, while Crunchies and Milky Bars are said to be good ‘if a child sucks food well’.
Tracey Nutter, director of nursing at Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, defended the advice.
She said that the leaflet was the ‘first of several documents given to a small number of parents with babies and toddlers who have significant feeding problems and are failing to progress onto solid food for a variety of medical or developmental reasons’
She also said the foods are ‘not intended as meal replacements or as a means to put on weight’.
Consultant dietitian Sian Porter, a spokesman for the British Dietetic Association, said giving youngsters sugary food was usually not a good idea.
She said: ‘In a healthy child who is having a balanced diet, it would not be necessary for them to include things like chocolate.’
And she said there were certain circumstances when specialist advice given might ‘surprise or appear to be at odds with the majority of what people eat for a healthy diet’. The dietitian said this could apply to children who might attend a feeding clinic.