As you know, a growing child needs a healthy diet to ensure that they have enough daily energy and the nutritional building blocks to support them through their growing years. Starting healthy eating habits in a child’s early years will also help set the tone for their eating habits in adolescence.
Children are very responsive to foods, meaning they can be more sensitive than adults to preservatives and added sugars. As a children’s nutritionist working in Brisbane, A common question I get asked is about the amount of fruit and fruit juice that is recommended for young children. Even though fruit is a healthy and natural food, high in vitamins and antioxidants, too much sugar (this includes too much fruit sugar) can overload a child’s body faster than they can break it down. Too much sugar can create a huge surge of sugar in their blood, resulting in moodiness, hyperactivity and or and inability to concentrate. Following this, the body’s natural urge to normalise blood sugar, will secrete large amounts of insulin, creating sugar levels in the blood to drop below ‘normal’. This again results in inability to concentrate, moodiness, tantrums. Correct nutrition will allow your child to thrive.
The key is to includesome protein with breakfast, lunch and dinner and create good eating habits and attitudes towards healthy food. Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring, it is yummy and enjoyable too and must be seen that way by children. The best way to start with nutritious meals is with breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day! By eating the right food at breakfast time, your child will be able to concentrate better, have more energy, and set the tone for healthier eating throughout the day. An ideal breakfast should include some protein like eggs, or yoghurt and whole grains such as rye bread or rolled oats. Try to stay away from processed packet cereal boxes, as they are nutritionally empty foods, often high in sugar, unable to sustain your child until morning tea. Fruit juice is unfortunately not a very healthy addition to any meal or snack. It turns out that fruit juice has just about as much sugar as a soft drink, and the fact that the sugar comes from fruits doesn’t make it any better for you! If you do give your child fruit juice, limit to once per day and use it more like cordial by diluting it with water.
When you are introducing new foods to your child, they will sometimes need a few exposures to that food. If they don’t like a particular food, don’t’ force them to eat it. Leave it and try it again a few days later, maybe as a different dish this time. Also, let your children decide what the like and what they don’t. You never know, they can change their minds just like that!
Marion Battig works from Vibe Natural Health, a Nutrition, Naturopathy & Massage clinic in Bardon.
She is available for appointments to help you or your childs nutrition. See www.vibenaturalhealth.com.au/our-therapists for more information.