|Every parent wants to do what’s best for his or her child. With so many safety issues to consider, what car seat is best, are these toys safe, child-proofing the house, or even how to choose a child-care provider, parents often don’t consider nutrition. It easy in our busy lives to need to get something quick for the child to eat and something the child WILL eat, without giving much thought the ramifications of what the child is eating. What a child eats determines so many things, growth and development, brain function, and the child’s overall health for life. There is a new term “metabolic programming” that is used to describe the fact that foods eaten in childhood can have lasting effects on the way your child’s body grows and functions. Scientists believe that metabolic programming happens due to the fact that growth and cell division in many parts of the body occur only in childhood. During this time the cells are sensitive to the availability of nutrients. Metabolic programming sets the stage, so to speak, for your child’s whole life. First foods can have a permanent effect on growth, strength, immune system, and intelligence, with long-term consequences for many other aspects of health and even personality. With your help, your child can like healthy foods, be in control of how much they eat, and be an adventurous, contented eater whose is comfortable with the social aspects of eating.When children begin to eat solid food you have three things to your advantage. First, toddlers like to put everything in their mouth! Second, they tend to like to do things themselves and feeding themselves is no different. Third, your child has a deep instinct to copy you. So, setting a good example is a very good place to start. You have a short window of opportunity at this age to let your children experience fruits and vegetables and so many healthy foods, that you will not be able to introduce later, once they have developed tastes for more unhealthy foods and learn to say NO. Your first goals will be to maintain milk consumption be it breast milk or formula, introduce your child to a full range of healthy foods that they can enjoy throughout their lives, and to move towards a schedule of three meals and two snacks per day. It is very important for this to be a relaxed, enjoyable time for the child, not a battle of forcing and worrying about the mess. The tone for these mealtimes will set the tone for a lifetime of healthy attitudes toward food. Offer small amounts of a wide variety of foods often. If they don’t want to eat them, fine. By offering the food over and over and seeing you eat that particular food and enjoying it, the child will soon get comfortable with that food. Try to include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals (hot and cold), beans and peas (legumes), whole grain breads and pastas, nut butters (be careful, whole nuts could cause choking, as could whole grapes or other foods). If you choose to give the child meat, poultry and fish are a good place to start. Eggs are very nutritious and can be scrambled with vegetables. Let them help prepare the food, let them feed themselves and make a mess, having a good relationship with food and eating can be very important later in life. Be conscious of where your food comes from. Local, organic fruits and vegetable, pasture raised chickens and eggs and 100% grassfed meats, no hormones, antibiotics or factory farmed meats. Raw, organic dairy is far superior in nutrients.Children should not have free access to candy, cookies, chips and junk food. Out of sight out of mind is a good guide here. Sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats should be restricted, as should processed foods with additives and colorings. White flour, sugary pastries, doughnuts and store bought cookies are not good choices. That is not to say your child cannot have a treat. Make healthy treats, bake oatmeal-raison cookies and let the child help. Share an ice cream cone on a hot day at the park, as a special treat. Ask your child’s caregivers and friends parents to respect your wishes, and respect theirs. Many children today have allergies that can cause serious complications (peanuts for one), and responsible communication is very important. Last, but not least I do not believe young children should ever eat fast food. At a young age they will not know it exists, and as they grow older and are eating appropriately, a fast food meal once in a while will not hurt them. They should experience what other friends do, just not to excess, and not as a food choice in the beginning of developing their tastes. By the time they are older you can explain why these are not healthy foods to eat on a regular basis. Obesity has become such a problem in children, leading to adult cardiovascular problems at younger and younger ages, I feel it is important to steer children away from fast food. My father was a chiropractor and we ate very healthy foods in my childhood. I remember discovering McDonalds in high school and my first bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich at my girlfriend’s house. I enjoyed these foods for a while but eventually went back to healthier choices, because I preferred them. I do not eat either of these anymore.
It is important to research your family medical history. When you are aware of such conditions as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and food allergies, you can guide your child in preventing these conditions from affecting them. When you know what foods caused allergic reactions in your family, you can carefully introduce these foods to your child watching closely for reactions. If cardiovascular disease runs in your family, you can make sure your child does not eat a lot of sugar, saturated fats, and can monitor their cholesterol levels. If your family has a history of diabetes, you can make sure your child’s blood sugar levels are balanced, and they eat the correct foods to prevent them experiencing this disease.
I believe by starting children out eating and enjoying healthy foods that you as parents will not have to deal with the heartbreaking problems of obesity or eating disorders in your children. I believe as you watch them grow and become adults you will be spared the agony of wondering if you could have done something differently to prevent that heart attack they had at forty years of age, or the onset of diabetes. By being a good example for your child, they will not have to deal with the premature death of a parent that could have been prevented. Good nutrition starts in childhood, but it is never to late to correct unhealthy eating patterns.
I am going to be on vacation in July….be back in August. Happy Summer!
Submitted by Tricia @ Nutrition by Tricia