It is quite natural that we as parents give our children the foods that we have been eating and liking since our childhood. Food traditions are something that is followed on the basis of culture as well as language. These traditions bind the families together and keep them related to their past. And with the present time, we are becoming more aware and conscious about the nutrition and health of our children as some foods are considered healthier than others. And the more we know about them, the more we resolve to change our own diets and the diets of our children.
There is so much information available on the nutrition and health of children that it is natural for one to get confused. We cannot start adopting t all the new information we get because if we start doing that we will never know what all is going to turn up on our plates daily.
However, there are some basic concepts which need to be followed. A healthy diet contains less saturated fats and refined sugar and more complex carbohydrates, lean protein and unsaturated fat. Simple food like whole grains, fruits and vegetables provides a composite amount of nutrients which support health during childhood and throughout life. In order to make our children eat enough to meet their nutrition and health need, we have to make the food presentable to our children in a way in which they like it. We have to figure out how to make it work with each individual child as each of them will have their own choices and preferences with food.
A person sets his food preferences early in life. We have to offer our children a variety of healthy foods regularly in order to make them learn to like these foods. The trick which can work here is to make these foods a regular part of the family diet. And make this healthy food look as normal and natural as any other food. And we will see that children would adapt to those foods naturally and easily which is a regular food in the family diet.
What should a healthy diet be like:
Here are some ideas on what should be cooked in a diet to make it more healthy and be liked by children.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Broccoli, cabbage, spinach and other green vegetables are high in absorbable calcium, iron and vitamins, the darker the colour, the higher the nutritional value. These green leafy vegetables should be steamed or stir-fried quickly just for a minute or two. They can be seasoned with a little salt and pepper when the child is older, but it is best to avoid added salts for younger children.
Beans and other vegetables
Whole grains should compose a major part of a child’s diet. Rice, oats, whole wheat noodles and pasta, and whole grain bread provide sufficient carbohydrates for sustained energy as well as protein, fibre and vitamins.
Meat and Fish
A child’s size portion of the serving should be different from an adult’s. The meat should be cooked properly to retain its nutritional value. Fish is a good source of unsaturated fats and it includes omega-3 fatty acids. Many experts suggest two to three servings of fish in a week however it is possible to get plenty of omegala -3 fatty acids from vegetarian sources.
Fruits, seeds and nuts
These foods are delicious treats for the children seeds and nuts can be roasted and eaten alone or in salads. Organic peanut butter and homemade butter are healthy substitutes for candies or ice creams.
Dairy, Eggs and Sugar
While choosing dairy in our child’s diet we should be careful about the fat content. Whole milk is best for twelve to twenty-four months. We should change to skim milk in later years as it is free of saturated fats and cholesterol and provides protein, calcium and vitamin D. Eggs white are high on the list of allergy-causing foods. They are a great source of protein, fat-free and low in calories. Egg yolks are a good source of vitamin B 12 and other vitamins and proteins. They are high in cholesterol but contain a lesser amount of saturated fats. Refined sugar, however, is full of calories but contains nothing much. For a sweet treat for kids, the healthiest choices are fresh fruits and fruit juices.
All the children love to eat cookies, cakes and pastries as they like the taste very much but these things provide little nutrition and are a good source of invisible fat in the diet. These things make the children feel well fed in a smaller portion and spoil the appetite of the kids as they contain empty calories. It is not necessary to make sure to serve a dessert after every dinner. And also we need to develop a habit of replacing cookies and sweets with some better and healthier choices in the form of fruits and fruit juices. However, we should not stop our kids from eating cakes and cookies sometimes.
Nutrition and health for children sound complicated but it should not sound so. As the ideal diet is based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Meat, eggs and fish can be added in smaller portions. And if one excludes all the animal-based foods like dairy and eggs one should include multivitamins supplements.
Generally, the following foods are required in the everyday diet:-
Green and other vegetables in three to five servings. And it would be ideal if some of them are taken in raw form or in the form of a salad.
Seasonal Fruits in a serving of two to three.
Beans, Peas and Lentils in two to three servings.
Whole grain bread, cereals or pasta two or more servings.
Some of these suggested foods may not be accepted by you and your children. In that case, one should always be open to trying different new things just making sure that the foods you are replacing with are good for the health and nutrition of your children.