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Child Nutrition Articles

Why you should pay attention to your child’s appetite
Does “brain food” help children study well?
Healthy Habits to Keep a Child’s Immunity Strong
Nutrition’s Role in Building Strong Immune System in Children
How to Support Your Child’s Immune System through Nutrition
4 Important Nutrients Your Child Might Not Be Eating Enough
How Protein Fuels Child Development
Why Kids Need Healthy Snacks
Nutrition Tips to Help your Child Stay Healthy during School Age
Signs that Tell Your Child is Undergoing Growth Spurt
How to Choose Healthy Drinks for your Child
Why kids go through a picky eating phase and how to address
Healthy Ingredient Swaps for Kids’ Meals
Top reasons your kid is refusing to eat

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Food Replacements so your Kid Does Not Miss Out on Important Nutrients

Food Replacements so your Kid Does Not Miss Out on Important Nutrients

A child’s taste profile is ever growing and they may have aversions to some foods, even if it is good for them. As a parent, you worry that your child may not be getting all the essential nutrients and struggle to find replacements for those foods. There are plenty of replacements, but before you start feeding your child those, first adopt a positive attitude and be a good role model. Instead of saying your child hates certain things, say that they are willing to try new things instead.

Tomatoes, Green Peppers, Broccoli, Carrots – what those vegetables have in common are that they are all good sources for Vitamin A, C, and K. These vitamins support vision, immunity, and act as antioxidants. Your child may refuse to eat these due to their color and green vegetable aroma. If your child lacks these, they may get weak bones, poor dental health, and easily fall ill. Replace with – sweet potatoes, oranges, various fruits, or even try different formats of the ones they do not like.1

 

Fish and Seafood – Most often because of their fishy and oceanic aroma, children do not like eating fish or seafood. Seafood is rich in protein, selenium (an antioxidant), and Omega-3 Fatty Acid. They are important for cells, muscles, repairing damage, and overall development. Sources for these are easily replaced with red meat, chicken, cheese, eggs, nuts, legumes, and fish oil supplement options.1

Milk and Cheese – Most commonly associated with being a good source of Calcium, Vitamin D, and healthy Fats for muscle, nerve, blood, and bones. They are also for getting other nutrients around the body. If your child cannot tolerate dairy products, aside from intolerance and allergies, try replacing them with lighter versions of milk, other fortified drink options, enriched oils, and nut butters.1

Bread, Oatmeal, and Pulpy Fruits – As well as many other vitamins and minerals that may help reduce the risk of heart issues and obesity, these are good sources of fiber. Fiber helps keep your child fuller longer and move things around in the body, ie. helps prevent constipation. You can replace these items with a plethora of fortified foods, flavored cereal, plain biscuits or crackers, rice, and homemade no added sugar fruit popsicles.2

 

Reference(s):

  1. https://pediasurearabia.com/ae/en/healthy-eating-tips/want-to-win-over-a-child/yuck-o-meter
  2. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Kids-Need-Fiber-Heres-Why-and-How.aspx

Sensory and Behavioral Feeding Issues in Kids

Sensory and Behavioral Feeding Issues in Kids

Picky eating, also known as food selectivity, to a degree, is where a child may prefer a taste of one food over the other. For example, they may eat beef, but not like the flavour of goat. Another scenario is also having a preference for fried meat versus boiled vegetables in soup.

 

Sensory eating problems meanwhile are caused by the discomfort of eating a food item and feeling averse to its texture. The sensitivities may also extend to a food’s smell sometimes.

In fact, it goes on a deeper level than simply not liking something and even regard eating food as a negative experience.1 2, 3

 

What features are common with sensory and behavioral feeding issues?

 Sensory – If you notice your child chewing their food for too long, holding food in their mouth without attempting to swallow, taking more time than necessary to finish food, or simply refusing to touch or go near food, there may be more serious issues and a pediatrician or other medical professionals should be consulted.2, 3

Behavioral – Sensory and behavioural issues can be intertwined. Behaviours like acting out during meal time and resisting to sit still when they are able to. Or outright refusing to eat even under parental threats, throwing food, screaming, vomiting on purpose or insistent complaining to get out of eating can all stem from a sensory issue they may have.2, 3

 

How to cope

Going out to restaurants or other types of eating events are stressful to both the parent and the child who has sensory and behavioral feeding issues. Here are a couple of suggestions to cope2, 3:

 

  1. Do not pressure – Your first reaction would be that they eventually have to eat that particular food because that is all they are going to get. For a child with sensory issues, food is seen as pain so treating that pain with fear will not improve the situation. Allow your child to explore at their own pace with monitoring and steering in the most favorable direction.2, 3

 

  1. Get your child analyzed – Sensory and behavioural are intertwined, but can also be a medical issue. Oral, digestive or nutritional deficiencies are all possible causes of food refusal. While it is ultimately best to get your child analyzed by a Medical Professional, in the meantime, talk to your child and let them know that you understand their distress.2, 3

 

  1. Ease into trying new things – Mix it up and experiment to slowly ease away their aversions. Cooking meals together will also give them a hands-on experience to familiarize with new textures or transform old ones they previously feared. Easiest order to get them used to a food is first by smell and then progress to touch with hands or mouth. If they have gotten past the smell, then try to get them to take a bite and eventually swallow. Praise and reward them long the way.2, 3

 

Reference(s):

  1. https://pediasurearabia.com/ae/en/healthy-eating-tips/want-to-win-over-a-child/other-feeding-issues
  2. https://researchautism.org/its-not-picky-eating-5-strategies-for-sensory-food-sensitivities/
  3. https://yourkidstable.com/sensory-processing-and-picky-eating/

Understanding Your Child’s Eating Habits and Needs

Understanding Your Child’s Eating Habits and Needs

Before you get your child to eat something with a parent’s authoritative power, understand their needs and habits. It is all about observing, analyzing, and developing ways to deal so that it is less stressful for your child as well.1, 2, 3

 

Keeping a Record

The best way to know what your child likes is keeping a seven day record of their behaviour around food. By doing this, you can see what the amount of certain food item brings the particular behaviour. Are they getting too many snacks and junk food? If they are, it can explain certain hyperactiveness and extreme lows. Remember that as they grow, their hunger patterns will change so by keeping a record, a parent can properly gage to provide the best support.1, 2

You can absolutely control what they are getting, so as long as you are providing options. Best way to know what they like? Take them shopping and involve them in the meal preparations. Along with that, use ‘hunger prompts’ before each set mealtime, rather than forcing meals.1, 2

 

They are modeling after you

Instead of dictation, use guiding methods while giving your child opportunities to make choices. If you want them to eat healthy, do it yourself too. If you want your child to try new things, you have to eat it too. If they see you eating junk and sugar foods all the time, but you will not let them have any, you will find it difficult to get them to eat anything else. Avoid watching TV while eating or using technology yourself because those distractions will impede the feelings of fullness.13   

 

Are they seeing food as a punishment?

When foods are used as a reward to placate a punishment or withheld for bad behaviour, food will become a coping mechanism for stress or other emotions. Peasantry in your presence when there is food, will encourage them to eat well rather than eat and rush off or not eat at all to avoid interaction. Step back and look at stressors, not only in food, but other areas of their lives. Being stressed around food not only affects their emotions, but also their digestion, resulting in long term detrimental health problems.13

 

Reference(s):

  1. https://pediasurearabia.com/ae/en/child-nutrition/worried-your-child-is-not-eating-well/habits-and-needs
  2. https://pediasurearabia.com/ae/en/child-nutrition/worried-your-child-is-not-eating-well/understand-hunger-signals
  3. https://www.webmd.com/children/kids-healthy-eating-habits

How Nutrition Affects Both Body and Mind of Kids

How Nutrition Affects Both Body and Mind of Kids

Food is the most important sustenance that keeps us alive besides water. It is where we get our nutrients, vitamins and minerals and other beneficial aspects such as socializing if eaten in good company. This is especially important for children in order for them to grow and develop. Food is sustenance, but besides nutrition, it has other impacts in other areas of their lives too.

 

Behaviour

Even as an adult, missing meals changes our blood sugar levels which affects our behaviour. Especially seen in children, distractions are easy and frustrations occur often. If meals are skipped regularly, ability to concentrate, not only educationally, but also in social interactions will greatly be affected. Observe their behaviour before and after to see how food affects your child. This is so that you can see that the next time they are feeling grumpy, they are probably hungry.1, 2

Since children mirror their parents’ actions, if you want them to have the correct behaviour, you yourself have to eat regular healthy meals too. Asides from regular meals, be sure to provide a child with snacks so that they are held over until the next meal.1, 2

 

Emotions

With convenience and even more colorful packaging, children can develop less than favorable eating habits. A parent’s early intervention can avoid that from happening. If meal times are too far apart, emotional eating can occur due to being overly hungry. Forcing a child to clean their plate of what they do not like, they can develop negative relationships with food. Even if the contents of the plate are healthy.1, 2

 

Never try using junk food as a reward for eating what they do not like. It can instill the fact that they must do what is bad first to be rewarded. For children to develop well emotionally, instilling positive attitudes with food can help their body image and dealing with judgement. Allow your child to make food decisions from time to time, as well as your meals, to instill freedom and flexibility.1, 2

 

Cognitive development

Even if your child is eating, if they are still missing the essential nutrients, memory, speech, performing tasks, reasoning, concentrating cognitive development is affected. Good nutrition does not just build healthy bodies, it helps with their brain development. Nutrients like DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid, an Omega 3 fatty acid), is important for their memory power and eyesight. As in adults, Vitamin E protects the fat in a child’s body cells. Missing meals or not taking your child’s food dislikes seriously not only affects a child’s behaviour and emotions, it has physical impacts.1, 2

 

Reference(s):

  1. https://pediasure.ca/en/the-power-of-food
  2. https://www.sahssi.org.au/resources/parenting/can-food-affect-childrens-behaviour/

 


Introducing new Food to Kids in a Fun Way

Introducing new Food to Kids in a Fun Way

If you have a kid who is a fussy eater, introducing new foods feels more difficult than it needs to be for you. Though there are no sure set ways to get them to try new foods in just one single day, here are a few strategies that can make introducing new foods easier.

 

Play with Food

Of course there needs to be some rules as you do not want the fun to become uncontrollable.1

 

  • If there are any particular shapes, colors, and textures your kid already likes, you can transform the new food item into those.
  • Things like fruits cut into animal shapes, slicing meat and vegetables to create rainbow color palettes.
  • Have a fast food style meal down to the presentation with home cooked meals. Pair with those the foods they already enjoy to have mini tasting sessions.
  • Since kids love playing with their hands, you can even make that a way of eating all a day’s worth of meals.
  • Or use different utensils like toothpicks, tongs, or even stacked in layers inside jars.

 

Mini Garden

 In the modern world where being eco-friendly is becoming a more accepted concept, teaching your kids gardening can be fun. Kids in general love seeing positive results of their work so having them grow food can add an educational value to eating later. Since they would be putting a lot of effort into growing something, they would not want to waste the harvested food and eat it. They can even boast about eating what they grew among their friends and other family members. Gardening does not have to have a big space. It can be in a small planter near their window or dining room or even their playroom.2

 

Try again and Acceptance

Never try to hold back their favorite activities or favorite foods to try to get them to eat what you want as it may cause negative reinforcements if done too often. Even for adults, some foods take a while to be liked as our taste preferences are always changing. Though you have the authority of a parent, you have to accept the fact that your child may never like the particular food you give them. Take everything as a learning experience and look into ways to make the situation better. Also do not be hesitant to make them eat the food again, be it doing it positively. Was it the portion size? Make it smaller next time? Was it the way you cooked it? Try new cooking methods.3

 

Reference(s):

  1. https://pediasure.ca/en/new-foods
  2. https://www.cbc.ca/parents/play/view/planting-an-edible-garden-with-kids
  3. https://www.happyhealthyeatingforkids.com/blog/fun-ways-to-introduce-new-foods-to-fussy-eater

 


Five Important Food Groups for Kids

Five Important Food Groups for Kids

Getting proper nutrition is what will help a child grow and healthily develop to enjoy life. WHen it comes to nutrients, there are three kinds. One of them is macronutrients, which are proteins, fats and carbohydrates or the nutrients that provide energy. The next is Micronutrients, which are the essential vitamins and minerals calcium, iron, vitamin C, D and B. They are for long-term general health maintenance and a healthy immune system. Dietary fibres, Soluble and Insoluble, are crucial for digestive health. To make sure that a child gets all the nutrition they need, focus on providing them with food from these five top food groups.1

 

Grains and Rice

Food from this group can be considered the “bulk” of the meal as it is where it will contain the most fiber. This food group must be kept whole as possible as the typical Asian white rice and refined flours tend to be stripped of its fibers. Preferably consider including this food group in the morning meals because since your child will be fuller during the day, they will not ask for heavier dinners. You can either give your child oats at breakfast and wheat or rice or whatever grain is best locally for lunch.2, 3

 

Vegetables

The more variety of vegetables included in your child’s diet, the more variety of nutrients they will receive. Vegetables are a good source of Potassium, Vitamin A, E, C, and also fiber, not only are they nutrient rich, they also add to keeping your child fuller longer. Dark green (bok choy, gai lan, broccoli), orange (squashes, carrots, bell peppers), beans, and starchy (potatoes, arrowroot, yams) are all vegetable options.2, 3  

 

Fruits

Fruits come in many shapes, sizes, and colors children tend to love so it is not difficult to get them to eat enough. This food is seen as the classic source of Vitamin C, including many other nutrients, and if eaten whole compared to juice, is also a good source of fiber. Fruits should be considered where your child gets most of their sugar content as candies and packaged snacks have calories but no nutrition.2, 3

 

Red Meats and Seafood

Protein, Iron, Vitamin B and E can come from vegetable and nut sources, but meats and seafood provide a higher quality of them. Higher quality source is the choice to make as protein is the building block for the body. If your child does not like eating fish curries, try barbequing or pan frying. For red meats, serve them in small bite sized pieces as large portions can be intimidating to children.2, 3 

 

Dairy

This is the classic source for calcium and B12 and with today’s improved technology on fortifying products, soy and nut milks are options for children with lactose intolerance. This food group does not have to be provided in its purest form, but can be occasionally received through cheese, ice cream, pudding, and milk drinks.2, 3

 

Reference(s):

  1. https://www.pediasure.com.au/nutrition-development/balanced-nutrition-for-kids
  2. https://www.verywellfamily.com/food-groups-child-nutrition-2633922
  3. https://www.gosh.nhs.uk/conditions-and-treatments/general-health-advice-children/eat-smart/food-science/food-group-fun/

Balanced Nutrition for Kids Explained

Balanced Nutrition for Kids Explained

It is well known among parents that getting kids to eat healthy can be a challenge. The reason for that is because nutrition has many significant impacts on each stage of their development. Balance is key, get to know how each important nutrient will affect your child’s growth.

 

Proteins is what supports their Growth

Just because a child is young, it does not mean they should not work on growing their muscles. Just like in adults, protein supports the growth of cells to support the body’s growth. Strong cells also support a body’s immune system. Children who are affected by protein deficiency are fatigued easily, small for their age, and can fall ill often. It is not difficult to find a good food source for protein because it is all your child’s favorite dishes that contain chicken, fish, fortified cereals, milk, and some vegetables.1

 

Watch the Carbs & Fats

Fats have a bad reputation for causing obesity in children and adults alike. It actually depends on the type of fat and how much of it one eats. The fatty acids (Omega-3, Docosahexaenoic “DHA”, Eicosapentaenoic “EPA”), are good fats. When they are consumed in appropriate amounts, they support the nervous system, enhance memory power and help absorb immunity improving Vitamins (A, D, E).1, 2

 

Carbohydrates are in everything and they are what will provide a child with energy to function in a day. Similar to fats, too much carbohydrates in a child’s diet can cause early childhood Diabetes. Children who develop diabetes (Type 1) early are at a higher risk of getting heart diseases in their adult years. To prevent this, reduce the amount of highly processed foods and provide them with carbs that keep them fuller longer like whole grains, brown bread, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low fat dairy.1, 3

 

Get their Synbiotics right

The balance power of both Probiotics and Prebiotics is known as Synbiotic. Parents making sure that their child gets the right mix will help reduce the development of gastrointestinal problems and late life food allergies. Our digestive system has many different types of bacteria to aid in digestion and for our general well being like improved immunity. Probiotics are the food bacteria found in yogurt and pickled items. Prebiotics are non digestible fibers from food that feed the good bacteria in the digestive system.1, 4

 

Remember their Vitamins

If food lacks essential vitamins and minerals, they are called empty calories. Vitamins and minerals help us heal bones, wounds and boost immunity. Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Magnesium, and Phosphorus for strong bones, while Fluoride is for dental health. Vitamin C will help your child’s body absorb Iron for oxygen circulation for proper muscle function. Along with Iron, Zinc will help promote a healthy appetite so that your child will grow up strong.1, 5

 

Reference(s): 

  1. https://www.pediasure.com.au/nutrition-development/nutrition-explained
  2. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/what-to-know-about-omega-3s-and-fish#1
  3. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20180810/early-onset-type-1-diabetes-tied-to-heart-disease
  4. https://nutricia.com.au/aptamil/parents-corner/first-weeks/synbiotics-and-child-gut-health/
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/iron-deficiency/art-20045634

How Nutrition Can Shape a Child’s Emotional Well-being

How Nutrition Can Shape a Child’s Emotional Well-being

What children eat affects not only how fast they develop and learn but as well impacts their mood and overall well-being. Research, in fact, shows that kids who achieve a healthy weight are not only fitter but also better able to learn and are more self-confident. They are also less likely to have low self-esteem. 1, 2

On one hand, undernourished children are more likely to have behaviour problems, struggle in school and have difficulty keeping up in the workplace as adults. While these challenges are affected by more than just one factor, providing a child optimal nutrition has a crucial impact.1

Food for the brain

During the first two to three years of life, brain growth is fast and furious, making nutrition critical for cognitive development in children. Research shows that 2-year-olds with stunted growth may have learning difficulties that can linger into their teen years. Without the right brain foods on their plate, your child may fall behind in their development.1

Food for good mood

Nutrients like folate, vitamin B6 and choline are necessary to synthesize certain brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, that regulate mood and memory. An imbalance of neurotransmitters is often associated with mood-related conditions like anxiety and depression.

A diet lacking essential nutrients can also alter the way the body burns fat, carbohydrates and calories, which can lead to them becoming overweight or obese. Staying at an unnatural weight takes an emotional toll, as children who are under or overweight are more likely to experience bullying and depression.1

How to start your kids’ healthy eating habits

Here are practices for parents to help their child get the best nutrition so they stand to benefit from all the cognitive and energy benefits that come with eating right.1

  1. At meals, offer a mix of your child’s favorites as well as some new foods.
  2. Gently encourage your child to try new foods, but don’t pressure them.
  3. Keep in mind that everyone has foods that they do and don’t like.
  4. If your child refuses what’s on the table, don’t be a short-order cook. Instead, offer a simple alternative such  as a bowl of fortified cereal or a peanut butter sandwich.
  5. Use healthy snacks to fill in nutrient gaps throughout the day.

References:

  1. https://www.nutritionnews.abbott/pregnancy-childhood/kids-growth/how-nutrition-can-shape-a-child-s-emotional-well-being/
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/very-overweight-children-advice-for-parents/

How to Teach Kids about Healthy Eating

How to Teach Kids about Healthy Eating

A positive relationship with food must be started at a young age and it should begin at home. Parents have a big role to play in teaching their children about nutrition, which can have a great impact on their kids’ body image and long-term relationship with food up until their adulthood.1

With child obesity and other eating disorders among the youth on the rise, it should be every parent’s responsibility to encourage their kids to embrace a healthy eating lifestyle– one that is focused on food as nourishment instead of a reward or punishment for weight loss or gain.1

Here are tips to help parents foster healthy eating habits among their children:

 

Model Healthy Eating Habits

Kids eat healthier when their parents do. Thus, exposing children to healthy food options and being a positive role model who views food as a source of joy and nourishment rather than an enemy, can go a long way in improving their body image and relationship with food.

If you are the type of parent who is trying to keep the weight off, keep in mind to avoid restricting foods during mealtimes and going on fad diets that can promote short-term and unhealthy weight loss. It is instead recommended for parents to plan healthy, balanced meals that include fruits and vegetables with whole grains and protein. 1

 

Eat Together as Family as Often as Possible

Having positive eating conversations with children can foster their lifelong healthy relationship with food. A parent can put this into practice by eating together as a family as often as possible and by involving kids in food shopping and cooking to expose them to fruits and vegetables at an early age.

Studies suggest that families who eat together at mealtimes tend to have higher-quality diets with more fruits and vegetables and less fast food and sugary beverages.1, 2

 

Don’t make the food conversation about weight

Weight-focused conversations with kids can manifest later as low self-esteem, unhealthy body image and disordered eating. While it is true that any discussion about eating vegetables or exercising can become harmful especially when related to losing weight, it is highly recommended to turn the conversation instead on positive outcomes. By eating the right food a person can become strong, healthy, and happy. 1, 3

 

Reference:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/article/kids-healthy-eating-habits.html
  2. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2715616

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23797808/


Top Kid Eating Problems

Top Kid Eating Problems

Picky eating is all part of growing up for a child and provides a parent with many teaching opportunities about food. At times you may want to resort to punishments or bribes, but instead encourage healthy eating by understanding the most common mealtime dramas parents face.

 

You child is always hungry or is outright refusing to eat

Due to a child’s growth fluctuation, food amount requirements will vary. Instead of forcing them to eat three square meals a day, try offering more frequent smaller meals, up to 5 with child appropriate portions. Be patient as it takes time for your child to get used to new foods.1

 

You child refusing to try new foods

Your child may be neophobic, the inability or unwillingness to try new foods. Children often will always default back on to what is familiar so they will often ask for the same foods they are comfortable with. Instead of forcing change, try adding variety to their most favorite food. Change up the way you cook certain things so that they can experience new textures.1

 

You are more frustrated than your child

Children are not shy about telling you if they do not like the food and when that happens on a regular basis, you become frustrated. Do not resort to yelling or depriving them of activities that make them happy. Fix your own reaction and lead by example because behaviour is learned. Never use sweet and junk foods as rewards because they can develop negative association with the food they must eat. Get them involved in shopping, explain certain foods and maybe attach a story behind some of them. Children need to focus on food so avoid having the TV on or mobile devices during meal time.1

 

Reference(s):

  1. https://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/feeding/problems/toddler-feeding-problems-solved/

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