Sometimes we think of children as being little adults, but their dietary and health needs are not just miniature versions of mom’s and dad’s needs. Although their bodies and minds are exposed to many of the same environmental stressors and foods, they often don’t respond in the same way adults do. And for good reason: they’re still growing and developing on so many levels. Keeping up with the developmental changes can be challenging, as parents know, yet the opportunities for enhancing children’s health are exciting.
Children are exposed to a growing number of stressors such as environmental toxins in drinking water, air pollution, and food which is loaded with harmful preservatives and other food additives, antibiotics, steroids, hormones, and pesticides. Chemicals in and around everyday products also have an unhealthy impact on children. Emotional stress from academic, social, and family demands also plays a role in children’s health.
Healthy food, healthy children
Establishing healthy eating habits from the start can help lay the foundation for a robust life. Here are a few tips to set the stage:
Start early. A child’s food preferences begin early in life. It usually takes a few different times of trying a food before a child will accept it. Keep trying a variety of foods but don’t force a child to eat something.
Begin with breakfast. Establish breakfast as a routine for your child and everyone in the family. A balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fats is a good nutritious choice to jump-start your day. Fruit and veggie smoothies with seeds and nuts are always good child-friendly ideas (try slipping a handful of kale for extra nutrition!).
Limit sugar. Introduce fresh and dried fruit as the natural sweet option. Create sweet snacks by whipping up frozen fruit into sorbet or mixing fruit with nuts and seeds as a snack. Place an assortment of fresh fruits into a blender, mix and freeze into popsicle molds. Try freezing bananas, blueberries and grapes and serve them on a hot day. Make beverages count. Pure water and plant-based beverages are the best drinks for children. One hundred percent fruit juice is good as well, and can be mixed with water to dilute the sugar. Sodas and other sweetened drinks add calories but nothing in the way of nutrition so limit how much your child consumes.
Make beverages count. Pure water, and plant-based beverages are the best drinks for children. One hundred percent fruit juice is good as well, and can be mixed with water to dilute the sugar. Sodas and other sweetened drinks add calories but nothing in the way of nutrition so limit how much your child consumes.
Make fruits and vegetables exciting. Here’s where you can get creative! Try cutting up fruits and veggies into fun shapes or throw them into smoothies. Sneak veggies into baking and dinner recipes as well. Check out these recipes for 15 creative ways you can hide veggies in your family’s food. You can also get this recipe book from Jessica Seinfeld.
Get children in the kitchen. Ask your kids to help you prepare foods. Young children especially enjoy tasks such as mashing potatoes or stirring batter. Let them pick what they would like to make (within reason of course!).
Be fresh. Introduce your children to as many fresh, whole foods as possible while steering away from processed foods. Set an example: If you don’t buy the foods and stock them in the house, they’re less likely to have access to them. Of course, you can’t control everything they eat, but setting the example early in their lives can go a long way toward better nutrition.
No matter how much you focus on eating nutritious foods, environmental and other factors have detrimental effects on our food sources. One thing we often forget about is soil depletion. Modern farming methods have robbed the soil of nutrients, and as a result, a variety of essential foods have less nutritional value than they did decades ago. Although organic produce can provide more nutrients and is nearly free of pesticides, it’s not always easy to live on pure organics, not to mention it taking a harder hit on your wallet. A smart way to help fill in the gaps for your child’s health is to supplement with important essential vitamins.
Supplements can help prevent deficiencies, support optimal growth and development, boost energy levels, and promote general health. For children who have food allergies, food intolerances, or a chronic condition that affects food absorption, a supplement plays an even more important essential role in health and wellness.
How to supplement
Supplements for children are available in various forms. Tasty flavored liquids and powders are popular and are meant to be added to a child’s favorite beverage or water, as well as candy-like chewables and gummies.
One gummy-like newcomer is ChildLife Essentials’™ SoftMelts™ multivitamins. They have a natural orange flavor kids love and they’re sugar-free! They’re naturally sweetened with stevia and xylitol and unlike traditional gummies, which can get hard over time, SoftMelts™ are individually packaged so they stay fresh and moist.
Each chewy SoftMelts™ multivitamin provides essential vitamins and minerals for children, including vitamins A, B6, B12, folic acid, D3, and E, as well as minerals selenium and zinc. These nutrients contribute to normal immune function, energy metabolism, cognitive function, bone and dental health, and reduced fatigue. ChildLife Essentials™ also makes SoftMelts™ for healthy vision.
Given the many challenges children face every day that can impact their general health, it seems taking a high-quality supplement is a good insurance policy.
Dirt poor: have fruits and vegetables become less nutritious? Scientific American 2011 Apr 27