Childhood nutrition can play a large part in the health and healthy growth of a child. Without proper nutrition, children can develop health issues and bad eating habits that can quickly turn into a lifelong struggle. Understanding the basics of child nutrition can help create a healthy diet for kids of any age, from infancy to early adulthood.
Believe it or not, childhood nutrition starts with an infant's very first meal. Many studies have shown that breastfeeding infants increases immunity levels, prevents infections, and may stave off allergies later in life. Many pediatrics and health associations, such as the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, recommend that babies should be breastfed for at least the first six months. For those who cannot breastfeed, it is important to discuss formula options with a pediatrician to ensure that an infant is getting proper nutrients.
When transitioning to solid foods, parents have an opportunity to set healthy patterns for childhood nutrition that may influence a lifetime. Some studies have shown that babies weaned onto healthy foods generally prefer the taste of healthier foods throughout their lives. Whole grain cereals, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables are good foods to introduce in the weaning process.
It is very important to watch for any signs of allergies during the transition process to solid foods. Keep an eye out for rashes, respiratory symptoms, or severe stomach upset. Doctors often recommend reserving the introduction of common allergens, such as nuts or fish, until later in the child's life. If parents or family members have significant food allergies, doctors may recommend allergy testing before introducing some foods.
As a child grows, it is important to foster healthy food habits to ensure good childhood nutrition. This can be accomplished first by setting a good example through adult food habits. As the grocery shoppers, the parents have considerable control about what food is in the house and thus added to the diet. It is also important to set a good example: If a child is denied dessert but sees parents frequently snacking on cookies, he or she may be reasonably confused about what eating behavior is acceptable.
Life is busy for most people, and the idea of crafting three homemade meals per day may be impossible for many parents. Avoid falling into the trap of easy but unhealthy eating by finding healthy alternatives. Go to health food stores for low-sugar cereals and whole grain breads, and get in the habit of looking at ingredient lists and nutritional information before purchasing. An apple makes just as good of a snack as a sugar-packed fruity snack, while providing more nutrition and far less sugar. It is important to remember that ensuring proper childhood nutrition may take more forethought, but doesn't necessarily require more preparation time.