Nutrition for kids is based on the same principles as nutrition for adults. Everyone needs the same types of nutrients — such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein and fat. Children, however, need different amounts of specific nutrients at different ages.
So what’s the best formula to fuel your child’s growth and development?
Eating a healthy diet has many benefits for children.
- Keep energy levels balanced
- Improve their memory and concentration
- Balance moods
- Help maintain a healthy weight
- Help prevent mental health conditions including depression, anxiety and ADHD.
Top Tips for Eating Healthy:
It is important to encourage breakfast. A good night’s sleep followed by food in the morning helps your child to stay active and concentrate at school. It also means your child is less likely to be too hungry during the morning.
Up their Omega-3s
Studies show that taking an omega-3 supplement actually helps kids concentrate better in school, making it one of the smartest supplements your family can take. Omega-3 fatty acids are the most critical building blocks of the brain; they are considered essential and must be obtained through diet or supplementation. Without these important fats, it can become difficult for children to concentrate, learn new information, and balance their moods properly.
To obtain omega-3, you can either eat 2 portions of oily fish per week (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring) or supplement with omega-3 fish oil daily. Surprisingly, an IPSOS/MRBI survey found that 89% of Irish people are not consuming sufficient oily fish in their diet, so there is often a need to supplement with a high-quality fish oil such as Eskimo-3 Kids.
Protein is the ultimate fill-me-up food – its more filling than carbohydrates or fats and keeps you feeling full for longer. Include protein at each meal to keep energy and concentration peaked. Animal proteins such as lean meat, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt and cheese contain all 9 essential amino acids and are considered the most important for growth. Plant proteins such as beans and pulses are incomplete proteins and need to be combined to achieve the full spectrum of amino acids. Aim to include fish twice a week, with one being an oily variety like salmon, trout or mackerel. Fresh, frozen or canned are fine but remember smoked and canned products tend to be higher in salt.
Choose wholegrain breads and pasta rich in fibre to keep energy up and blood sugar stable. Choose whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, rye, oats), wholemeal bread and whole-wheat pasta.
Fruits and Vegetables
Aiming for five portions of fruit and vegetables is a good starting point for children. The portion size depends on their age, size and physical activity – so there are no set rules. An easy guide is that a portion of fruit or veg is the amount that fits in the palm of your child’s hand. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit handy. Keep some vegetables such as sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes and baby carrots in the fridge to grab for a quick snack.
Eat regular meals
Eating every 3-4 hours, helps to prevent any dips in energy throughout the day.
Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and contain no fat, so they are a great choice for a snack between meals. Serve raw carrots, peppers or cucumber with hummus as a healthy snack. Other good snacks include low-fat yogurt, peanut butter and celery, or whole-grain crackers and cheese.
When dehydrated, the body and mind are dazed, restless. Children should be encouraged to drink plain water. Sweet drinks such as cordials or sweetened fruit juice are not needed for a healthy diet and aren’t recommended.
Weaknesses in the Modern Diet
- The amount of sugar consumed by people has skyrocketed in the last 100 years. Most foods high in sugar are void of nutrients. Foods high in sugar are easily converted into glucose and cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels.
- Children consume more fizzy drinks, cordials and fruit juice than the previous generation.
- There is a greater use of hydrogenated fats and trans fat laden margarines.
- Modern wheat is less nutritious than older varieties of wheat.
- People are eating more processed foods than ever before.
Foods to limit in your child’s diet
- Added sugar. Limit added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruit and milk, are not added sugars. Examples of added sugars include brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, honey and others.
- Limit fizzy drinks, cordials and fruit juice – Drinks containing added sugars are not required for good health and may increase the risk of weight gain in children. Sugary drinks contribute to tooth erosion and decay.
- Limit sugary cereals and breakfast bars – foods high in sugar can contribute to weight gain and poor energy and concentration in children. Avoid sugar laden muesli bars and breakfast bars. Offer healthier breakfast options such as overnight oats, porridge, pancakes made with oats and banana, berries and yoghurt, eggs with wholegrain toast.
- Kids yoghurt – Yoghurt is a wonderful food for children, but child friendly yoghurts are usually high in artificial colours, flavourings and sweeteners. Instead Just buy the plain variety or Greek yoghurt and sweeten it with frozen fruit, raisins, or honey (for kids older than 1.)
- Saturated and trans fats. Limit saturated fats — fats that mainly come from animal sources of food, such as red meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Look for ways to replace saturated fats with vegetable and nut oils, which provide essential fatty acids and vitamin E. Healthier fats are also naturally present in olives, nuts, avocados and seafood. Limit trans fats by avoiding foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil.
This post has kindly been sponsored by Eskimo 3
Eskimo-3 Kids is a high strength omega-3.6.9 with vitamin D to support your child in school every day! Eskimo-3 Kids is available in your local health food store or pharmacy! www.eskimo3.ie