Feeding and educating your child on food is your responsibility. You are the parent. It may seem like an obvious statement, even common sense, but it is also one of the areas many families struggle with. It is not about just feeding your child a meal—it is providing a healthy meal they can grow strong and intelligent on.
The right food needs to be rich in proteins, calcium, other minerals and vitamins. It is not an old wives’ tale that carrots will help children develop better eyesight. The beta-carotene in carrots has been linked, through extensive studies, to eyesight. It does not mean genetics don’t play a role. If your child’s genetics show markers for nearsighted or farsighted eye conditions or even astigmatism, then there is little you can do to stop the need for corrective lenses. It also doesn’t mean you have to make the situation worse by not supplying proper nutrients. A well balanced diet with plenty of protein is imperative for your growing child.
Protein helps improve your child’s attention for learning important concepts. Your child will also be more alert and capable of thinking, versus a non-rich protein diet that can lead to early fatigue and hunger.
Carbohydrates are part of a well-balanced diet. You may remember about 15 years ago a new diet came out about how bad carbs are for you. It was the no carbohydrate revolution. However, carbs are actually good for you in moderation. Eating five pieces of toast and no protein is not a proper diet. Providing carbohydrates in fruits, vegetables, and one piece of toast, along with protein is a good diet. Carbohydrates provide your child brain fuel. Carbohydrates provide energy.
The downside to carbohydrates is the quickness with which the energy dissipates. In a matter of hours your child can be tired and hungry again if they are just given carbohydrates. They can lose their concentration.
It is important to choose proper carbohydrates. Fruits are one option. A secondary option is whole grain. Whole grain foods are said to be healthier for you versus white bread and other grains. Processed carbohydrates and sugars are not good for your children. These processed foods limit the attention span, activity level, and your child’s ability to focus.
The human body also requires various minerals and vitamins that are found in healthy foods. It can be easy to get busy, to visit fast food and other restaurants. It is also fun to teach your children about donuts, cinnamon rolls, and other yummy snacks. Avoiding these completely will only make your child want to eat them more; however, you can set up an eating schedule that gives snack rewards.
An excellent performance in school can be rewarded with a sugary snack. Providing a snack every night or letting your child eat Toaster Strudels and cereal every morning is going to start an improper cycle.
The Food Pyramid Re-imagined
In 2011, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) replaced the age old food pyramid with MyPlate food groups. It is designed to provide portion amounts for a well-balanced meal, as well as provide a few suggestions.
MyPlate suggests a half a plate of fruits and vegetables. It means half of your child’s diet should be fruits and vegetables. Each meal should have at least a portion of fruits and veggies. It is not something you provide all at once. Fruits and vegetables are known to contain most of the vitamins, fiber, and nutrients your children need to be healthy.
A few ways you can improve on the veggies and fruits you serve, is to make them fun.
Add pureed or shredded fruits and vegetables to goods you bake.
Make fun shapes out of the fruits and veggies, then provide a healthy dip.
Double the amount of veggies you put in stews, soups, and casseroles.
Get your children involved in making kabobs, veggie meals, and various healthy salads.
For proteins, you want to make sure you are offering a variety of foods. Chicken and hamburger are not the only meats in existence.
You do want to choose lean cuts of meats, as well as add protein from other sources. Nuts, seeds, beans, peas, tofu, and cheese products have dairy. You should also select from lean proteins, such as lean cuts of beef, various poultry, eggs, and seafood.
Try serving fish or seafood in a different way, if your child does not like it. For example, bottom fish tend to have a better, less “fishy” flavor than salmon and tuna. You might be able to lightly bread the fish and provide tartar sauce.
Substitute peas, beans, and tofu for meat once or twice a week. Tofu, while boring, can also be used to soak up flavors in stir fry dishes.
Always trim the fat away from the meat before you cook it.
Children still need to eat 3 ounces of meat or as close to it as possible.
Dairy products have been getting a bad name of late. Suddenly, 2% milk, which most 80s kids were raised on is not the right thing to provide your child. It is going to be your decision and you should look at your own family genetic history. There are certain medical conditions that can make regular milk and higher fat dairy products less healthy. If your child has an issue with milk, such as lactose intolerance, you may consider soy milk, almond milk, or lactose free milk products. Dietary Guidelines for Americans believes children 4 to 8 years old need to have 2.5 cups of milk or the same amount of dairy products each day. Choosing a lower fat diary option ensures your child is reducing the saturated fats they eat.
However, if you are limiting their sugar and non-lean protein intake, you are also helping reduce the fat intake they have.
As stated you shouldn’t completely ignore the junk food. It is fun for children to experience new things. You just want to limit their intake of junk. Don’t feed an entire donut in one sitting or make a small slice of cake/brownie versus a portion you would normally cut.
When it comes to soda, it is far better not to let your child learn how wonderful the sugary taste is. Soda is one of the things that children can become addicted to with ease and it is also full of empty calories. Worse, it causes weight gain, diabetes, and hyperactivity in children. If you already have a fully energetic child, who wants to go, go, go versus reading a book or playing a game, then you don’t want to add sugar to the mix.
Like other junk food, you can also set rules about when soda is appropriate. State that soda is for a very special occasion, a once in a year type of situation, versus getting a soda every time your child eats out.
Beyond finding new recipes and varying what your child eats, while providing healthful foods, you want to provide a proper setting for your children.