Healthy eating offers many benefits for everyone who makes it a daily habit. By starting a healthy lifestyle early on, you naturally get even more out of it. By learning healthy habits from an early age, you will be able to maintain this more easily later in your life. In this way you reduce the risk of diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and even cancer.
Why is healthy eating so important for children?
Children can make the most of their potential thanks to a balanced and healthy diet. Then we are not only talking about their appearance and well-being, but also about good results at school and their general attitude. Unhealthy food or junk food is not only lacking in the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are essential for the growth and development of your child. They also cause other problems, which at first sight you would not immediately link to your child’s diet. A bad mood, listlessness, tiredness or attention disorder can all be due to what your children get. You know what they say? You are what you eat. Well, that applies just as much to children as to adults. If your children eat fat or sugar-rich food, or if they eat healthy food but simply do not have enough variety, their physical and psychological well-being is at risk, both now and in the future.
What does a balanced diet look like?
A healthy diet is a balanced diet, and then variation is crucial. Balanced, healthy meals for your children consist of different foods from every category. Don’t know what a balanced diet looks like? Then you can follow an easy-to-prepare recipe, developed by Harvard Medical School scientists. According to Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, meals must consist of half of fruit and vegetables. They also contain grains and proteins (preferably from fish, poultry, beans and nuts instead of red meat and cheese). Healthy fats, such as olive oil and rapeseed oil, are recommended, albeit in smaller amounts.
Benefits of fruit
Children grow, and they grow fast! That means that their bones and organs need certain vitamins and minerals to function and develop properly without problems or shortages. One way to ensure that children get enough nutrients is to serve them fruit. Fruit contains vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates that play a fundamental role in the growth of a child. The portions often depend on various factors. We recommend that you consult a pediatrician or nutritionist to determine exactly how much fruit your child can eat. It is generally recommended to eat a piece of fruit with every meal.
But beware, because fruit juice, for example, does not offer the same benefits as the fruit itself. Some health organizations advise against giving children under 12 months of age fruit. This does not apply to older children. Count on half a cup for children between 1 and 3 years old, and up to 3/4 cup for children between 4 and 6 years. A child may not eat more than 1 cup of fruit per day. Fruit juice should mainly be avoided because it usually contains a lot of sugar. This can cause various problems, such as tooth decay, poor absorption of nutrients, and in the worst case, even diabetes or obesity. It may sound strange, but sugar also has an effect on your child’s mood. Eating or drinking with a high sugar content causes the blood sugar level to rise quickly, but that does not take long. That means that your children will get an energy boost for a while, after which they will be lifeless, moody or even bad-tempered. It is the parents’ task to ensure that their children eat as little sugar as possible and supplement their diet with healthier alternatives, such as fruit.
Vitamin D for stronger bones
Vitamins and minerals are often called micronutrients because the body needs smaller amounts of them. This is in contrast to macronutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Micronutrients help the body during crucial growth phases. In addition, they promote metabolism by supporting the immune system. It can happen that a child breaks one of his bones, especially when it is very sporty, for example. Vitamin D is important not only because it nourishes our body, but also because it causes our body to absorb calcium and phosphorus. These substances are crucial for the development of strong bones. So you need to get enough vitamin D to prevent rickets, osteoporosis, fractures or injuries. Traditionally, milk and outdoor games (thanks to sunlight) are linked to the intake of vitamin D, but many studies have since shown that this is not nearly enough. To ensure that children get enough vitamin D, you can put the following foods on the menu:
Enriched dairy products
You don’t have to avoid fats
The reason for this is simple: people need them. In particular, they contain a lot of energy and provide essential fatty acids, which the human body needs for numerous processes. These are crucial processes, such as metabolism, blood clotting and the absorption of vitamins. However, you must keep an eye on the quantities of all nutrients, and certainly of fat and sugar, because if you get too much, you can also have health problems, such as high cholesterol.
The only problem is that children are often naturally attracted to fatty and sugary foods. For children over two years old, poultry, fish, lean meat, low-fat dairy products and oils with low saturated fats are a good option. Don’t forget that you can grill, roast or bake meat and fish better than frying.
Just like everything else in life, a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating habits are all about balance. We also don’t have to tell you that children follow the example of their parents and heroes when they have to make important choices. If you also take into account the fact that most habits are developed in childhood, you really know how many benefits healthy eating actually offers. Help your children eat like a pro and face a long, healthy life