Childhood and adolescence are the periods when the human body is going through rapid growth and development changes. Consequently, the intake of a healthy diet filled with proper nutrition becomes vital.
Replacing healthy meals with processed and fatty foods that most children like may result in obesity, and their nutritional needs will remain unmet. Moreover, not having access to healthy and complete meals may cause malnutrition resulting in stunted growth and lower IQ scores. Such inadequacy renders children incapable of proper functioning in the present and later stages of their life.
The most rapid growth period is during infancy, where infants triple their weight by the age of one year. Besides, early childhood is not just marked by physical changes; the child is also undergoing cognitive and behavioral development.
Hence, a complete and healthy diet will ensure the child’s optimal development without compromising his/her growth needs. Although individual differences exist considering a child’s weight, height, age, and build, a nutritious diet must incorporate macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in adequate amounts. Avoid processed and fatty foods such as packaged and sugary foods as much as possible.
Some of the benefits of eating healthy food during early periods of life are as follows:
- Healthy Eating is a MUST for optimal growth: The body grows the fastest in childhood. However, after childhood, it slows down. During adolescence, almost half of the adult skeletal mass builds in addition to changes brought by puberty. Hence, a diet filled with nutrients is essential for achieving these milestones without compromising the ability of the body to stay healthy.
- Healthy Diet Enhances Brain Development: Learning disorders and lower IQ scores may result from poor nutrition during fetal development. Cognitive and behavioral problems such as issues with attention, memory, and lack of inhibition, defiant and rebellious behavior may also result from the poor development of specific brain areas.
- Maintaining the Health Body Weight: Many studies show that obesity has become a significant issue during childhood. The accessibility of these junk foods and increased advertisements portraying them as tempting encourage children to consume them daily. Hence, parents need to develop innovative ideas to ensure healthy eating in their child, discussed later in the article. Also, eating healthy at earlier stages of life may help the child develop healthy habits and practice them throughout his/her life.
Some tips that may help you promote healthy eating patterns and habits in your child:
- Practice What You Preach: Your child would not learn to eat healthy if you have unhealthy eating patterns yourself. A child learns most behaviors by imitating people in his/her surroundings. Inculcate healthy eating habits in your lifestyle: Eat a balanced and nutritious diet at regular intervals, and avoid too much snacking. Consequently, your child may model or imitate your behavior and start eating healthy.
- Get Familiar with Your Child’s Taste Buds: Children are picky eaters. Most of them have rigid preferences when it comes to food. Carefully observe what your child likes. It is a good idea to present your child with many crucial food options on the table and let them pick what they want to eat. Also, if your child likes a particular food item, you can combine it with the food you want your child to eat.
- Make Food Fun: Children are attracted to bright colors, different shapes, and sizes. Experimenting with different flavors, cutting a boring chapati in the form of hearts, trying out different textures may excite the child to try the food you bring to the table. Try to put fruits and vegetables in different colors. These assorted colored vegetables and fruits also have other nutrients that will help you ensure that your child eats a plate filled with nutrition.
Hence, small tips such as introducing variety, getting creative with food, including children while shopping for groceries, can help them develop healthy eating patterns. It is important to remember that merely eating food will not ensure optimal growth and development- what and how much they are eating is equally important.