Kids and Nutrition
It seems today that both children and adults are mistaken and confused about what they should and shouldn’t eat. With all the technology around us we get most of our nutrition information from TV commercials and ads on the net, every day. Children are overwhelmed with junk food all the time, and unless you’re living in a remote part of the world, it’s just about impossible to avoid it. Our children will see other people eating these foods, they will be given these foods at parties, and this may make them want more.
We know that our children get some nutrition education in school in classes like science and through health and wellness programs. However, do you really think they will be able to understand how to make important dietary choices in their own lives- well no, they are only Kids!
Why is Child Nutrition important?
About 1 in 4 children today are struggling to manage a healthy weight. Obesity has been shown to have a significantly negative effect on longevity, decreasing life expectancy by up to 20 years. According to a study from the New England Journal of Medicine in 2005, it was concluded that there are serious consequences for children of this generation, as they may be the first that do not outlive their parents.
Here are some reasons for Childhood Obesity:
- High energy food (high sugar) intake and lack of exercise.
- Childhood stress
- Overweight parents
- Maternal smoking during pregnancy
- Gestational Diabetes
- Poor sleep
- High TV and technology use (sedentary)
How should you explain Nutrition to Your Children?
Teaching children about nutrition without having it back-fire on you is possible. Though, achieving this may go against the common approach of labelling foods as ‘Healthy’ and ‘Not-healthy’.
So, we have to rethink how we’re going to teach our kids so they don’t feel guilty or ashamed for eating junk food and enjoying it. Most of all we need to teach them how to make good food choices so that they can grow up to be healthy adults.
7 Tips on how to teach Kids about Food
1. It all begins with You. If you are sitting there and you are feeling frustrated because the children have only had bread for dinner, now is not the right time.
2. Develop Healthy Habits Yourself so that your child can adopt healthy eating habits from a young age into adulthood. Be the ultimate role.
3. No matter what, avoid labelling foods as healthy, bad, or junk.
4. Keep all foods on a level playing field.
5. Focus on education, not dictation. Instead of focusing on whether the food is healthy or not, think about teaching your child about that food as if you were teaching them the colours of the rainbow. Along with filling half of the plate with colourful vegetables and split the other half between whole grains and healthy protein. But avoid calling processed foods like bacon, deli meats, hot dogs and sausages, protein.
6. Get your kids in the kitchen as there is no better time to teach them about food than while you’re preparing meals together. Cooking with your kids is powerful for many reasons, and if you want to teach nutrition this is a perfect opportunity. By giving your child a task to do in the kitchen you will find it easy to have a conversation about food!
7. Keep your meals interesting, colourful and tasty.
- This is key to a healthy and balanced diet, as each food has a unique mix of nutrients—both macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
- Go Slow: Take it one day at a time. This is ongoing practice.
Be a smart cook and serve your kids the same food you are eating and get in that routine! And yes, this means that you and the others in your household need to model healthy eating behaviours for your children to learn from, as well! You got this!
The most important Nutritional Needs for a Child
Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, fibre and water. These 7 main nutritional markers are important to consume every day. This helps our children to build their bodies and maintain their health.
Keeping hydrated is really important because water is absolutely essential for life. A few days without water can lead to serious illness and even death.
Carbohydrates often get a bad name for being fattening but consuming carbs is all about balance. Carbohydrates are essential for proper body function as carbs are broken down into glucose, which is your child’s brain and body’s main fuel. Carbohydrates come in several different forms (sugars, starches, and fibre), but kids should be eating more of the starches and fibres and less of the sugar. Foods that contain high levels of carbohydrates include:
- Whole grains
- Vegetables and fruits are all examples of healthy complex carbohydrates.
- French fries don’t count as vegetables because of their negative impact on the body.
Protein is critical for good health. Protein is essential in forming muscles and creating new enzymes and hormones. Protein helps a child’s body build cells, break down food into energy, fight infection, and carry oxygen. Proteins are composed of small building blocks called amino acids.
Animal proteins provide all essential amino acids, while plant proteins may be lacking several of these essential elements.
To ensure your child is getting all essential amino acids, include a variety of proteins in your diet, such as meat, eggs, dairy, nuts, and beans. If you are meat eaters, try to stick to lean meats.
Good sources of Proteins:
- Beef Pork Lamb
- Legumes and Pulses
- Dairy products
- Some Vegetables
Fats are a great source of energy for kids and are easily stored in a child’s body. It’s important to remember that fat is a necessary part of your child’s diet. However, what matters most is the type of fat they eat. We should choose foods with healthy unsaturated fats (such as fish, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils from plants), and avoid unhealthy trans fats (from partially hydrogenated oils) that are in a lot of processed packaged foods. They are also important in helping the body to properly use some of the other nutrients it needs.
Sources of good fats:
- Extra Virgin Olive oil,
- Most nuts and seeds, e.g. almonds, cashew nuts and hazelnuts;
- Fish e.g. salmon, sardines
Fibre helps generate bowel regularity and improves the microbiome in a child. It also plays a role in reducing chronic illness.
Some foods that contain good levels of Fibre are:
- Whole Vegetables
- Whole-grain cereals
- Kidney beans
A vitamin is an organic compound and an essential micronutrient that the body needs in small amounts. For Children, vitamins and minerals are extremely important for growth, development and good health. Children lacking in vitamins and minerals can often show signs of learning and developmental problems. To make sure your child is getting the full range of vitamins they need, be sure to offer them a variety of foods.
The essential vitamins are:
Vitamin A: This is important for healthy skin, vision, tissue repair and normal growth. Vitamin A is found in yellow and orange vegetables and some dairy products.
Vitamin C: This vitamin is for the body’s immune system to help fight off infection and to heal. It also helps strengthen tissue, muscles and skin. You can find Vitamin C in citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, Kiwi fruit, spinach and broccoli.
Vitamin D: This is such an important vitamin, but it’s often forgotten. Vitamin D helps the body absorb minerals such as calcium and maintain strong teeth and bones. It also helps support the immune system. Vitamin D is found in fortified dairy products and in fish oils. However, your child can get an adequate amount by exposure to sunlight. Sunlight stimulates the vitamin, which naturally occurs in the skin, to become active in the body.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E boosts the immune system and helps the body fight infections. It is a powerful antioxidant, which helps to protect cells against free radical damage that can lead to chronic illness.
Foods Naturally High in Vitamin E:
- Sunflower seeds
- Mixed nuts
- Carrot juice
- Sweet potatoes
- Pine nuts
- Wheat germ
B vitamins: This group of vitamins are necessary for our children’s body to function properly. There are eight different B vitamins that belong to a group. These vitamins perform many vital tasks such as playing an essential role in releasing energy from the food we eat, as well as in the formation of healthy red blood cells and nerve function. The B Vitamins help the immune system, cardiac function and assists in metabolic activities.
B vitamins are found in:
- Beef, Pork, Lamb
- whole grains
- vegetables and fruits
If you are concerned about your child’s nutrition, our Nutritionist or Naturopath will happily help with ideas and recipes for everyone.