As parents, we all worry from time to time whether our children are getting enough nutrition. The ongoing struggle to improve our children’s nutrition can lead us to myths and conventional wisdom. My Christmas gift to beijingkids readers is to bust some of the most common myths about childhood nutrition.
Myth 1: Kids must eat their greens
Busting this myth always triggers the biggest sigh of parental relief. The reality: Kids can easily meet their vitamin and mineral needs with fruit. Vegetables play a larger role in an adult diet than a childhood one, because they are full of nutrients without being full of calories. Fruits’ higher calorie load is appropriate for growing bodies, though. You should continue offering greens to your child, but as long as she’s getting fruit, you can dial down the pressure on her (and yourself).
Myth 2: Kids should eat low fat diets
Some parents ask me why their children seem overweight, yet still hungry all the time. When I look at their diets, I find they’re often high in carbohydrates (including whole grains) but low on the healthy fats needed to fuel growth. The fact is that growing children need more fat than we do – as long as its healthy fat like olive oil, avocado oils and fish oils. Trade some of the carbs for healthy fats.
This isn’t just for babies! A child’s brain doesn’t reach 90 percent of its adult size until age 6. Brains are 60 percent fat, plus water, so you can see why dietary fat is so important – as long as it’s the right kind of fat.
Myth 3: Kids should always eat their meals
It really is OK for children to go to bed without food from time to time. Yes, even toddlers. Many parents believe that their young children need to eat at every meal. This can lead parents to provide food that their children will readily or reliably eat, which isn’t always the healthiest choice, or pressure children to finish a meal that they really don’t want or like. The result can be a narrow range of offered foods that encourages picky eating.
It is normal for kids to eat very little (or not at all) at some meals and then gorge themselves at others. Studies looking at feeding behavior of young children note that even though calorie intake can vary meal to meal, it evens out over the day and more so throughout the week. So don’t worry if one meal goes ignored; the next one will probably be devoured with gusto. If your child refuses food for several meals in a row, then it might be time for a checkup.
This article is excerpted from beijingkids December 2012 issue. View it in PDF form here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out where you can pick up your free copy.
Photo by La Grande Farmer’s Market via Flickr