NUTRITION for CHILDREN and TEENS
Every parent knows that proper nutrition is fundamental for their child’s health throughout their lifetime, and that begins during the infant years. A child’s eating habits determine their growth potential and mental prowess. Every parent wants their child to develop to their maximum potential but unfortunately in this modern world, children are constantly distracted and bombarded by information that is counterproductive. No matter how you try, mass media and your children’s peers constantly influence your child’s eating perceptions getting them to eat more junk foods and less of the vital food groups critical for their optimum growth and development making your efforts fruitless.
Fret not for there are ways that parents can instill healthy eating habits to their child gradually without making the process and mealtimes a struggle. By starting early, you are making a tremendous impact on your child’s lifelong relationship with food and health. The things you impart to them now will greatly affect their lifestyle in the future.
Developing Healthy Eating Habits
Children are picky by nature, and usually eat by their eyes. They tend to develop a lasting preference to foods they enjoy the most (children normally have a sweet tooth) and this makes it harder to encourage them to take the healthier options.
- Be your child’s role model – your child will look up to you and will imitate you. So if you are encouraging your child to eat more fruit and vegetables, it is crucial that they see you eating them as well.
- Enjoy family meals – make mealtimes more than just a gastronomic experience for your child. Develop a routine in which meals are served on time and make sure that everybody eats together, this enhances your child’s appetite and will lead the child to relate mealtimes as bonding times.
- Cook more at home and get your children involved – you are not only teaching them the value of good nutrition but in the process you giving them the liberty and a sense of self-worth. This particular activity will lead your child to develop a positive relationship with food.
- Replace junk foods with fruits and healthy vegetable salads – encourage your child to eat more fruits and veggies, tell them stories about these and you will see in no time, they will develop a fondness of this food group.
Children are picky eaters, they will not eat something that they don’t like and you can’t force them to do so. But there are ways to help alleviate this behaviour by:
- Give your children variety, the more healthy options the better.
- Offer only one new food at a time; this will help you determine your child’s preference.
- Make the experience enjoyable; a game, a story with food as the characters cut into different shapes will make a difference in your child’s eating habits.
- Encourage your child to eat new options by presenting the new food along with their favourites.
- Limit sugary beverages and replace them with sweeter and healthier fruit options.
- Be creative in preparing their food, children like colourful items on their plate. Make salads look like a garden and fruits the shape of animals.
Healthy eating for toddlers and young children
The transition from baby food to “real” food is crucial. Introduce toddlers to new taste and textures one at a time. Give them small meals several times during the day than a large meal thrice, remember that these are toddlers and have smaller digestive organs.
Toddler’s Nutritional Needs
Toddlers require at least 1,000 – 1,400 calories per day depending on their age and activity level. Depending on their activity, their appetite can be very good one day and slow down on the next, this is completely normal, just keep in mind that your child is getting a well-rounded diet, involving all the food groups.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food groups are divided into six:
Grains, recommending that at least half of grains consumed be as whole grains
Vegetables, emphasizing dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, and dry beans and peas
Fruits, emphasizing variety and deemphasizing fruit juices
Oils, recommending fish, nut, and vegetables sources
Milk, a category that includes fluid milk and many other milk-based products
Meat and beans, emphasizing low-fat and lean meats such as fish as well as more beans, peas, nuts, and seeds
The Standardized Dietary Guidelines for Toddlers and Young Children
|Fruits and vegetables||Two servings each per day. These may be given as snacks, such as apple or carrot slices. Also try adding veggies to soups.|
|Whole grains||Four daily servings. Can include buckwheat pancakes or multigrain toast for breakfast, a sandwich on wheat bread for lunch and brown rice or another whole grain as part of the evening meal.|
|Milk and dairy||Three servings, or one pint of whole milk per day. Cheeses, yogurt and milk puddings are useful alternatives.|
|Protein||Two servings a day. Encourage your child to try a variety of proteins, such as turkey, eggs, fish, chicken, lamb, baked beans, and lentils.|
|Vitamins and minerals||Check with your child’s doctor to be certain their diet is adequately meeting the recommended nutritional needs for this age group|
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