Statistics show that 22 million children in the world under the age of five are overweight. Young children grow and learn at an astonishing rate and should be physically very active, as physical activity develops muscle tone and neural connections in the brain. In order to have the energy required to grow and learn, young children need nourishing food and plenty of water. A varied diet will provide all the different proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals a young child needs to develop well and fully. A good diet also improves concentration and energy level, thereby increasing a child’s learning potential. A healthy diet in childhood can help to prevent anemia, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and dental problems.
A Healthy Diet for Young Children
A healthy diet consists of variety. The diet should include enough protein for growth and repair, iron and calcium for blood and bones, plenty of water, sufficient carbohydrates to provide energy, small amounts of fat as a source of essential fatty acids for cell growth, vitamin D for healthy bones, and zinc and magnesium to support the immune system. Variety does not refer to how much you consume of one food type or how often you eat, but to the range of foods that are eaten. Encouraging children to try a variety of different vegetables, meat and fruits will ensure a balance of nutrition. An adequate consumption of fiber will keep the digestive system healthy.
The nutritional advice produced by the Food Standards Agency is an applicable guideline for children ages five years old and over (although they may need more calcium and fat in their diet depending on activity and other factors). A balanced diet consists of foods from five categories: fruits and vegetables; breads, cereals and potatoes; milk and dairy; meat, fish, eggs, soy, and beans; and foods containing sugars and foods containing fats. A healthy balanced diet contains more foods from the first two groups and a smaller number of foods from the next two groups. Foods containing fats and/or sugar should be eaten sparingly and not as a substitute for foods from the other four groups. To ensure growing children receive the necessary nutrition to maintain a healthy and active life, parents should consider feeding children fruit and vegetables as an alternative to chips and sweets. This is a good way to start introducing young children to a healthy, balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables are also a rich source of vitamins, minerals and other components that boost the immune system. By providing an excellent combination of fluid and fiber, vegetables help prevent constipation in young children.
Help Young Children Develop Healthy Eating Habits
It is important to start early. The early years play an important role in encouraging young children to develop healthy eating habits for life. If you are unsure about how to select or prepare a variety of foods for your growing mouth, consult a doctor or registered dietitian for nutrition counseling. It is important to remember never to place an overweight child on a restrictive diet or weight loss program.