Do you ever stop to wonder when nutritional habits start? Healthy nutrition should be introduced to young kids early on in their life. Eating patterns built during childhood serve as a foundation for life. Currently, the top three sources of calories for children ages 2 and 3 are milk, fruit juice and pasta-- that's a weak foundation. What we eat early on shapes our brain development, behaviour, metabolism, healthy childhood growth and healthy weight. Are you wondering how start a healthy lifestyle when you’re young?
PIt's important to start with some of the basics. For example, choose, whole, minimally processed food. Avoid processed foods that are specifically marketed to kids. Incorporate vegetables and fruits into kid's DAILY diet. Supplement with vitamins and minerals if needed, but try to get their nutrients from foods. Take the lead, YOU'RE the parent- adopt healthy habits for yourself so that your children have a role model for their own behaviour.
Cut the sugar! Added sugar disrupts kids’ natural appetite and contributes to excess body fat, cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance. Sugar is hidden everywhere, read the label – even if the label says it’s ‘healthy’, be pro-active!
Dietary fats help kids absorb vitamins. They also help them feel full and satisfied after meals, and they are necessary to manufacturing hormones. Kids need healthy fats in their diet because without these healthy fats they can develop deficiencies in their growth, eyes, body composition, and brain. Healthy fats include Omega-3's which are useful for cognitive development and can be found from oily fish. Healthy fats can also be found in nuts, seeds, flax, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and chia. As well as, eggs, full-fat dairy, and coconuts.
Small substitutions can add up, simply by switching to less processed and more whole foods can make a difference. A classic parent trick – diluting fruit juice, mixing flavored yogurt with plain, cutting chocolate milk to regular milk. Try incorporating more fruits and vegetables – you can try roasting, adding them to soups, or even serving them raw with their favourite dip. Hummus is a healthy alternative for a dip. When giving children new food, give it time – it takes at least 10 exposures to new food before kids like it. DON’T GIVE UP! And most importantly DON’T GIVE IN!
In order to get your child excited about their food, you can try involving them in veggie and fruit prep. The more involved kids are, the more likely they are to try new foods. Keep vegetables and fruit accessible at home and school. Rearrange the fridge to make prepared vegetables easy to reach, and less healthy harder to reach. Teach kids to be media savvy – teach them to understand that advertising is designed to sell the food or product but isn’t for their well-being. When was the last time you saw a commercial about carrots?
Take them shopping with you, let them explore the produce section and choose some things they like to try.
Here are some of the nutrients most lacking in children's diet.
- Calcium – beans, greens, nuts, seeds
- Iron – beans, meat, whole grain, greens
- Zinc- beans, meat, whole grains, fish
- Vitamin A- fruits and vegetables
- Vitamin C- fruits and vegetables (promotes iron absorption)
- Folic acid – whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, meat
- Vitamin B6- whole grains, beans. Fruits, vegetables, meat
- Vitamin D- fish, eggs, dairy, mushrooms. Send kids outside to play in the sunshine!
- Vitamin b-12 – animal food (children eating vegan diet will need vitamin B12 supplement)
- Iodine- iodized salt, sea vegetables, dairy, fish.
Since kids are constantly on the go, it’s extremely important to stay hydrated – water and milk are good sources to do this. If there are allergies to cow’s milk, try to eliminate fruit juices and ADD whole fruit. If your child is sensitive to a food and you need to eliminate it, that’s OK, just establish what nutrients the food would have provided and include other foods that will make up for it.
Do’s and Don’ts to a healthy and nutritional childhood:
Serve a variety of unprocessed food
Serve appropriate portions
Involve them in shopping, prepping, cooking
Let them stop when they are no longer hungry
Eat as a family as much as possible (Mealtime is family time)
Set healthy examples and they will follow
Bribe with food
Force them to finish their plate
Keep unhealthy foods in the house
Eat so fast – it’s not a race
Aim for the following:
- - Vegetables – 3-5 servings per day (serving size = their fist)
- - Fruit – 2-4 servings per day (serving size = their fist )
- - Beans/legumes/meat/eggs 2-3 servings per day (serving size = their Palm)
- - Whole grains – 2-3 servings per day (serving size = their fist )
- - Nuts/seeds/olives/avocado/coconut 2-3 servings/ day (serving size = their thumb)
If you’re stuck and don’t know what to cook tonight, don’t forget you can always check out Wiz’s Picks for beginner meals that are a healthy option for all!