With junk foods, take-aways and sugary foods rampant, we feel it is critical that we write an article on what good child nutrition entails and what foods to avoid when preparing meals for children. We’ll also touch on issues associated with consuming unhealthy food.
The way our children eat and what they eat is partly determined by what is provided for them at home and at school, as well as by the influences from school friends and the media.
Poor nutrition not only compromises a child’s quality of life, but it also hinders their ability to learn and benefit from education.
Achieving optimal nutrition requires eating three meals a day and two nutritious snacks while limiting the intake of high sugar, high fat foods and excessive salt.
Essentially their diets should comprise of the following:
*Please note ALL the below vitamins and minerals can be found in BOTH plant-based and animal products. We have listed the plant-based sources below.
** Some children do have food allergies and therefore some of the below foods may not be suitable.
- Fresh water (children aged 4 – 13 should drink 6-8 glasses of water a day – younger children relatively smaller portions)
- Generous helping of fresh vegetables
- Good quality sources of protein (beans, peas, soy products, nuts, seeds)
- Calcium (broccoli, brussels sprouts, collards, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, beans, Corn Flakes, raisin bread)
- Zinc (mushrooms, asparagus, corn, broccoli, wheat germ, oats, garlic, brown rice, baby marrows, peanuts, brazil nuts, walnuts, cashews, almonds, pecans)
- Choline (legumes, tofu, green vegetables, potatoes, nuts, seeds, grains, and fruit)
- Folate (dark green leafy vegetables - turnip greens, spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli), beans, peanuts)
- Iodine (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts)
- Vitamin A (carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, cantaloupe, apricots spinach, kale, and collard greens)
- Vitamin D / Vitamin Sunshine (the best source of vitamin D is the sun)
- Vitamin B6 (dark leafy greens, bananas, papayas, oranges, and spanspek)
- Vitamin B12 (fortified non-dairy milk, vegan cheese, and vegan yoghurt)
- Long-chain polysaturated fatty acids (coconut oil, soybean oil, canola oil, walnuts, and flaxseed)
What can parents do to help children eat healthily?
Children look up to their parents and see them as role models. Consequently, any dietary habits formed by you as a parent will likely be reflected in your child.
It is therefore important that you role-model healthy eating and promote it whenever you can.
There are several things that you can do to improve your child’s diet and increase their nutrient intake.
We’ve listed just a few for you:
- Avoid ALL fruit juice (unless 100% pure juice – even then, limit significantly)
Fruit juice is loaded with sugar and very high in calories. It also does not contain the same fibre and phytonutrients that raw fruits do. Say no to juice and yes to H2O!
Most meals from fast food chains are extremely high in calories, they offer little to no nutrients and are packed with hidden sugars and bad fats.
Sugar is addictive and there are many scary health issues caused by it.
- higher blood pressure,
- weight gain,
- and fatty liver disease
Please note that none of the above health issues are limited to adults. Childhood obesity is a serious problem throughout the world and the number of children with type 1 diabetes has increased dramatically in the last few years.
Most children know the names of their favourite junk food before they know the names of fruit and vegetables.
Junk food should be avoided and instead low sugar, low fat nibbles should be given at lunches and for snacks.
Childhood obesity is a serious health problem and must be treated and solved within the first few years of a child’s life. If left untreated, the child will suffer from weight issues throughout their life. This includes the health issues that accompany obesity - heart problems, diabetes, social issues.
It’s vital that you help develop healthy eating habits for your child from a young age. Good habits formed at a young age are more likely to be carried through to adulthood.
Kay-Dee Educare Centre Mowbray
At our crèche, daycare and preschool, we’re aimed at giving your children the best foods, activities, and education. Contact us for more information about our centre.
*In our next article, we’ll be discussing ADD and ADHD in children.