Good nutrition is necessary for your child’s physical, cognitive and emotional growth. This is where you step in as their parent. Are you feeding your little one important foods, like good fats and lots of vegetables? Or, do you give in when it comes to processed foods, like sugary cereals and snacks?
Good nutrition is key for a healthy child, and here’s how you can support your little one’s development.
Why Nutrition Is So Important for Your Child
Your child’s body and brain are growing and developing at a phenomenal rate. And all of this growing needs good fuel.
Nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, good fats, and vitamins and minerals are essential during this phase in their life. Strong muscles need adequate amounts of protein, which build and repair other body tissues. Proteins can come in the form of eggs, dairy, meat, fish, and poultry.
Likewise, carbohydrates and good fats provide all of that much-needed energy that children burn through so quickly. And vitamins and minerals support the diverse change and growth that your child’s experiencing. Let’s have a look at why these different nutrients are necessary for your child’s healthy diet.
Why Your Child Needs Good Fats
Fat affects very important areas of the body. The body needs it to help build healthy nerve tissue, and this includes the brain, nerves, and hormones.
But before you load up on fatty foods, it’s important to remember that not all fat is made equal. There are lots of fats available today but they don’t all provide optimal nutrition. In fact, some can be harmful.
For example, many plant-based oils, such as canola oil and soy oil are made with genetically modified foods.
Instead, olive oil, an unsaturated fat, is good for heart health. Coconut oil, as well as fats from animal sources, like beef tallow, pig lard, butter, ghee, cheese, and milk are all excellent sources of saturated fat.
While it’s true that we should eat saturated fats in moderation, don’t be afraid to include them in your child’s diet. Their brains and nervous system need them!
Fat has many other benefits, too. Here are just a few.
- Fats are very soothing for the digestive system and offer healing to the stomach and intestines.
- Good fats help you feel fuller longer.
- Fat helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, like A, D, E and K. Without fat, it’s hard for the body to absorb and metabolize these important nutrients.
Limit Processed Sugars and Processed Foods
Children seem to be born with an innate sweet tooth. And sometimes, it’s just easier to give them sugary cereals, snacks, and meals. But if we consume too much sugar without burning it off, our body stores it as fat.
Even if your child is active and athletic, it’s still a good idea to limit the amount of artificial and processed sugar they eat. Not only will it help them avoid problems with being overweight and obese, but it will also save them from insidious sugar addiction.
Yes, sugar is addicting! You see, too much sugar increases the hormone, dopamine. It gives you a boost of energy and enthusiasm. And in order to continue feeling this way, people naturally crave more sugar.
By introducing your child to processed and artificial sugars, you may be creating a dangerous dependency that will be harder to eliminate as they get older.
Plus, too much sugar can lead to ADHD symptoms, as well as inattention, misbehavior, and dreaded meltdowns.
High amounts of sugar can also cause inflammatory issues like illness, digestive problems, allergies, and eczema. So, it’s a good idea to avoid processed foods, because chances are, they’re laden with sugar.
When purchasing your food, always check the label for sugar and its guises. It goes by many names, like dextrose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup and many more.
A Varied Diet Should Include These Key Nutrients
If your child is eating a well-balanced and varied diet, they’ll surely get all of the key nutrients necessary. As a good starting point, always try to include calcium, iron, folate, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C.
Include a Wide Variety of Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains
Sometimes, veggies are the hardest food to introduce to your child, but don’t give up!
It’s true that each person has their own preferences, but try to introduce a variety of different fruits and vegetables. You can aim for five servings of vegetables and fruit every day. (For easy reference, one serving size fits inside the palm of your child’s hand.)
Try to include seasonal local foods in your daily meal plans. Great foods for children include strawberries, apples, mangos, melons, and citrus fruits, along with potatoes, broccoli, spinach, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and squash.
Adult Diets May Not Be Suitable For Your Child
As you can see, a well-balanced, varied diet is necessary to support your child’s development and growth.
But as an adult, you may make special dietary choices for yourself. For example, you may cut back on carbohydrates if you’re following the Atkins Diet. Or, you may eliminate fats to prevent weight gain or heart problems.
But these same dietary choices can be detrimental to your child’s growth.
The same is true of vegan diets. While it may be a safe choice for you as the parent, it can be very harmful to children of a young age.
Why? Your child needs plenty of saturated fats, almost all of which come from animal sources. Vitamin B12 is another nutrient that is found almost exclusively in animal products.
Finally, it can be challenging for vegans to obtain adequate amounts of good quality protein. And since soy is a questionable food source, it’s best to not rely on that as your child’s main protein option.
Of course, as your child grows and makes decisions for their own health and wellness, they are free to eat however they choose.
But until then, it’s important to set them up for success. As a parent, you can provide them with the key nutrients necessary for healthy growth and development.