Getting your child to eat healthy can be challenging. To begin with, it isn't always easy to find time to prepare a home-cooked dinner for your family. What's more, children can be picky eaters and won't always eat what you set in front of them. At the same time, they're tempted by processed snack foods and colourful, sugary cereals found on most grocers' shelves. Everywhere there are diet dilemmas when it comes to providing healthy meals for children. So what are the essentials of a proper diet?
The most important focus for every parent and care-giver is to ensure that their child receives a sufficient intake of fruits and vegetables each day. All fruits and vegetables provide essential nutrients and vitamins for our bodies. They give us a healthy feeling of being full, and make us less inclined to run to the 'high-calorie, low-nutrient' types of junk food. The World Health Organization recommends eating up to five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. For a child's diet, it is encouraged to give them this option at every meal, in addition to snacks.
While fruits and vegetables are important, children also need calcium to support their growth and build their teeth and bones. Junk food and the rise of fizzy drinks in their diets have made it difficult for calcium to compete. Parents should encourage children to eat dairy products like cheeses and yoghurts, and to drink milk, preferably low-fat. For those who can't (or don't like to) consume dairy products, many non-dairy foods can be an alternative to natural sources of calcium, like almonds, fortified cereals, and orange juice.
When it comes to our children's growth and physical development, protein should be the main focus. Getting the right amount of protein can help with the development of their tissue and organs along with their immune systems. Foods like beef, poultry, nuts and eggs are good sources of protein. How much protein your child needs depends on how much they weigh. As a general guideline, for every 1 kilogram a child weighs, they will need 1 gram of protein per day.
Another point to consider with your child's diet is to accept that a certain level of fats within their diet is necessary. We assume that fats are bad, and while they contribute significantly to obesity and dietary problems, there are good, essential fats called 'unsaturated fats'. Salmon, canola oil, olive oil, avocado and nuts in general are good sources of unsaturated fats. Children need unsaturated fats in order to supply their bodies with enough energy for an active life, as well as for growth and development.
Making the smart choice for your children's diet is never an easy one. Luckily, we live in a culture that provides many healthful options for parents to give their children tasty, nutritious foods that can help pave the way for their healthy future.
Did you know ?
Getting your child to eat what you cook can sometimes be difficult, but if you get them involved in preparing meals, they will be more interested in eating what they have helped make. Start by letting them help pick out the ingredients at the store, then depending on their age, allow them to help in some way with the cooking.