Nutrition For Young Children

Nutrition is especially important to young dhildren. Helping your child to develop nutritious eating habits will provide for a healthy lifestyle in years to come.

It is a challenge that all parents must meet at some point: how to get your child to eat healthy foods. For many, this worry can become a nightmare. Is my child eating enough? Is my child eating too many of the wrong things? How can I get him to eat more fruits and vegetables? Why won't she eat something other than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Relax, chances are that although your child may be a picky eater, he or she is still getting adequate nutrition overall for his or her needed growth and development. But, there are some things you can do to help encourage good healthy habits.

If we work now at teaching our children healthy eating habits, we will be providing them with something that will provide for a healthy lifestyle throughout their years. Good nutrition can prevent many diseases and help to promote healthy lives in the coming adult years. But, how can this be done? Wanting our children to eat healthy and getting them to do so may seem like very opposite ideas. However, it can be done.

First of all, our children learn by watching us in everything we say and do. So, to merely "practice what we preach" will go a long way to helping our children carry out healthy habits. Eating with your children on a regular basis provides an excellent tool in demonstrating good nutrition. Eat your fruits and vegetables in front of the children. Don't drink sweetened iced tea and eat lots of cookies and cake in front of your child and expect him or her to enjoy the milk and asparagus placed on their plates. Try to balance your nutritional needs based on the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid of at least six servings of foods from the grain section daily, three servings of vegetables daily, two servings of fruits daily, three servings of meats daily, and three servings of dairy products daily.

With toddlers and small children, keep the serving sizes small. You can always give them more if necessary. Remember that their tiny stomachs are much smaller than our adult sized ones. Don't despair if you introduce a new food and they don't like it right away. Wait, and reintroduce the food again at a later point, after their taste buds have had time to mature more. When trying to get your child to eat new foods, serve with familiar foods and encourage the child to just try one small bite. Never try to get the child to "clean the plate." This can began a battle of wills that expends too much needed energy, as well as forcing the child to overeat. Most toddlers and young children like raw vegetables better than cooked because of the milder flavor. They love fruits because they are sweet and usually easy to chew.

Snacks are very important for growing children, especially those picky eaters who aren't getting in much at meal times. Don't expect your child to eat square meals everyday. Many professionals state that children will meet their nutritional requirements over days or weeks. To supplement meals, snacks need to be nutritious, without empty calories. Encourage plenty of milk and water rather than sodas and empty calorie fruit drinks. Try not to allow snacks an hour before meals if you are concerned.

A good way to get your child more interested in their meals is to invite them to help with preparation. The toddler and small child will be so proud to tell daddy how he or she helped mash the potatoes. As the children grow older and you involve them more in meal planning and preparation, you will be teaching them good nutrition and provide them with worthy skills that will last a lifetime. Another good way to get your child involved is by working with him in the garden. Allow him to begin his own small row of vegetables, and watch his pride as you teach him how to cultivate and reap his small harvest that he will be eager to prepare for others to share with him.

An important thing to remember is never to nag, push, or punish when you are working with your child. This will create a great deal of tension as you are engaged in the battle of the wills...a very difficult one to win on either side of the tracks. Use your imagination in coming up with creative ways to get healthy foods into your child such as by shredding vegetables and adding them to muffin mixes. You may want to provide a good multivitamin for your child daily.

As your child becomes older and enters school, remember that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Studies have repeatedly shown that those who skip breakfast or eat unhealthy sugary foods such as donuts or pastries have a difficult time concentrating a few hours later. If you serve cereals, use unsweetened or low-sugar cereals and sweeten them with slices of fruit or raisons. Most importantly, serve foods that the kids will eat, even untraditional ones such as pizza to give them a good start for their day.

As your children become teens, they will become more involved in activities outside your home and fewer meals will be eaten at home. Offer advice about healthy foods to eat in restaurants such as salads and vegetables, substituting milk and/or juice for sodas, selecting low-fat foods such as grilled chicken sandwiches instead of hamburgers and baked potatoes instead of french fries. Always try to have family meals at least two or three times a week to monitor your child's eating habits.

Keep healthy snacks available, since at this time much of the eating is done on the run. Good tasting foods that can make for nutritional snacks include microwave popcorn, graham crackers, fruits, frozen fruit juice on a stick, trail mix, pretzels, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat milk.

In conclusion, if your picky eater continues to cause you concern, seek out the assistance of a registered dietician who specializes in working with children to develop strategies to provide for the good nutritional health of your child.

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