August 18, 2011
Nutrition for Kids: Fact or Fiction
When you're a parent, everyone gives you advice about feeding your kids. Following are some common nutrition beliefs and why they may not be true.
Children need to eat three square meals a day. Nope. In fact, grazing or eating a few small meals throughout the day, is a very healthy way to eat (that goes for parents, too). Plus, it comes naturally to kids, who can't hold as much food in their stomachs at one time as adults. A slow-and-steady schedule of meals and snacks keeps their blood-sugar levels, energy and moods on a more even keel. So if they don't clean their plates at lunch, don't stress; they'll want the leftovers in a couple of hours. Just remember that snacks should be food you would serve at any other meal, not "junk" foods.
Even if they take a few bites of healthy foods, at least they're getting something. Although you know experts discourage making your child take a few bites of one food to have another, you just feel better knowing they are getting something healthy. (For example, you may require them to eat a few bites of meat or peas before you let them have dessert.) But, research shows that enjoyment of food can improve nutrition. Nutrients appear to be less absorbed from food that we dislike.
Children should eat low-fat diets. Fat is an important source of calories for growing bodies and it plays a vital role in development. Kids need more fat than adults do. That said, it is important that the sources of fat you provide your child are coming from healthy sources. Encourage lean meats, use olive oil, select low-fat dairy products and try avocados, nuts or seeds. Remember that low-fat, processed foods are often high in sugar, and that's not healthy either.
Just one soda a day won't hurt. One soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar. It is recommended that kids consume less than 8 teaspoons of sugar a day. Sugar is calories without nutrition, something most of us can't afford. Plus, sugary drinks may be replacing something more nutritious, like milk. Save the soda for a special treat.
Children should eat from every food group, every day. Children's tastes change frequently -- this week they may love yogurt, next week it may be peanut butter. As long as their diet balances out during the course of the month, it's likely their nutrition needs are being met.
Kids need juice. Granted, juice does have nutrients. But, it is also a concentrated source of calories. Liquid calories don't fill you up like a piece of fruit does. Also, you have to be careful that only 100 percent fruit juice is served and that it does not contain added sugar. Limit the juice to 4 ounces a day. You can dilute it with water to make it go further.
Kids need whole milk. Whole milk provides extra fat and calories, not extra calcium, vitamins or protein. Toddlers under age 2 can benefit from extra fat, but kids after age 2 should be drinking low-fat (preferably skim) milk.
Portion sizes for kids are the same as an adult. Toddler portions should be about one-quarter of an adult portion; young children, a third. As kids get older, they can eat more, but you need to know what appropriate portions look like to prevent overfeeding your kids and creating lifelong problems.
Kids need special kid-friendly foods. Kids can learn to eat almost everything that mom and dad do. It's important to introduce "real" foods early so they have a head start on a healthy diet and learn to avoid foods that are highly processed, sugary or salty. It takes kids several times to accept new foods, so just keep offering them.
Posted by Lisa at August 18, 2011 6:27 AM
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