What every parent can do about nutritional concerns
Healthy eating in childhood is important for proper growth and development and to prevent various health conditions. Despite parents’ focus on kids, many parents are still confused and worried, especially when it comes to what kids eat.
How much do our kids need? Are they getting enough calcium? Enough iron? Too much fat? Whether you have a toddler, nutrition is important for his or her physical and mental development.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025 recommend that people aged 2 years or older should follow a healthy eating pattern that includes the following:
⮚ A variety of fruits and vegetables
⮚ Whole grains
⮚ Fat-free and low-fat dairy products
⮚ A variety of protein foods
These guidelines also recommend that individuals limit calories from solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fatty acids) and added sugars, and reduce sodium intake.
So, what’s the best nutrition to fuel your child’s growth and development? Below are some of the nutrition basics for girls and boys of various ages.
Consider these nutrient-dense foods:
- Protein – Choose seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
- Fruits – Encourage your child to eat a variety of fresh, canned, frozen, or dried fruits – rather than fruit juice. If your child drinks juice, make sure it’s 100 percent juice without added sugars and limit his or her servings. Look for canned fruit that says it’s light or packed in its juice, meaning it’s low in added sugar. Keep in mind that one-quarter cup of dried fruit counts as one cup equivalent of fruit. When consumed in excess, dried fruits can contribute extra calories.
- Vegetables – Serve a variety of fresh, canned, frozen, or dried vegetables. Aim to provide a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, beans and peas, starchy, and others, each week. When selecting canned or frozen vegetables, look for options lower in sodium.
- Grains – Choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, or brown or wild rice. Limit refined grains such as white bread, pasta, and rice.
- Dairy – Encourage your child to eat and drink fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages.
You can also add nutrition to your child’s diet with PediaSure. PediaSure is a delicious nutrition drink that complements a healthy diet for kids who are behind in growth and the new PediaSure has Arginine and Vitamin K2 as well which help support longer and stronger bones. I was part of the virtual launch of the new PediaSure recently and learned about this. [i] PediaSure gives visible growth in 90 days. Another interesting fact is that the vanilla flavour contains 30 percent less sucrose and yet does not compromise on taste. You can give your child 2 full servings of PediaSure per day for optimal results. Try to use it as part of a healthy diet.
Aim to limit your child’s calories from:
- Saturated and trans fats – Limit saturated fats – fats that mainly come from animal sources of food, such as red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products. Look for ways to replace saturated fats with vegetable and nut oils, which provide essential fatty acids and vitamin E. Healthier fats are also naturally present in olives, nuts, avocados, and seafood. Limit trans fats by avoiding foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil. [ii]
- Sodium – Encourage snacking on fruits and vegetables instead of chips and cookies. Check nutrition labels and look for products low in sodium. [iii]
Tips for child nutrition:
Teach the importance of good nutrition, and help your children establish healthy eating habits. The more your child understands nutrition, the more excited he/she will be about eating healthy.
Nutrients are important, but portion size matters too. Half of your child’s plate should be fruits and vegetables. Choose fresh foods over highly processed foods. [iv]
How you cook and prepare foods can affect the nutritional value. For example, try grilling, steaming, baking, or broiling vegetables instead of frying or boiling them. It’s not just food that’s important. Drink water instead of sugary, sweetened, carbonated drinks. Different foods provide different nutrients, so make sure your child gets a good variety of fruits and vegetables. Find nutritious foods that children enjoy.
As a mother, I have always been concerned about my child’s proper growth and nutrition. The above pointers have helped me.
I hope you find them helpful too!
Disclaimer: If you have questions about nutrition for kids or specific concerns about your child’s diet, please consult with your child’s doctor or a registered dietician.