We’ve all heard the phrases, “good nutrition” and “basic food groups” thrown around, but what are the actual benefits of good nutrition in children? And what does it mean for their future?
While good nutrition doesn’t just apply to children, all the growth and development which takes place during early childhood requires quality nutrients and makes this a critical stage to establish healthy eating habits.
The benefits of good nutition in children, include:
- Healthy metabolism
- Strong bones and muscles
- Good energy levels
- Ability to fight off sickness and disease
- Easier recovery from illness or injury
- Reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancers, and bone diseases in the future
- Ability to learn and concentrate
- Mental wellbeing
While it’s more well known that adequate nutrition is essential for chidren’s physical health and wellbeing, having a balanced diet supports more than just a strong body. Quality nourishment also encourages healthy brain development, which leads to a better learning foundation in both early and later life.
Yep, developing brains need quality nutrients too, and children who have a more balanced diet, are better able to learn and concentrate. They also tend to have more stable mental and emotional wellbeing, including less mood and behavioral problems, such as depression and ADHD.
So what are quality nutrients?
Foods from the basic food groups, also known as ‘everyday foods’, provide the nutrients which play various roles in helping the body and brain function and maintain good health.
These food groups are whole, non-processed foods, and include:
• Grains: Breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles etc.
• Vegetables: Lettuce, spinach, potatoes, legumes etc.
• Fruits: Apples, bananas, grapes, citrus etc.
• Dairy: Milk, yoghurt, cheese etc.
• Protein: Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes etc.
So what can we do to help our children make healthy choices about food?
At Macarthy Road Education & Childcare, we not only provide fresh, healthy options for lunch and morning and afternoon tea, we also provide children with their very own veggie garden, to grow their own fresh, healthy options.
We also hold group discussions about healthy food choices and we have lots of fun cooking experiences in the classroom.
While we’re always encouraging parents and guardians to get involved in their children’s learning journey at Macarthy Road, there’s always things that families can do outside of the classroom as well! These include:
- Offering healthy food options at home:
- Be sure you have a variety of healthy, appealing food options available for your family.
- At the store, let your child choose fruits and vegetables that he or she enjoys eating or wants to try.
- Provide low-fat sources of protein, such as fish, eggs, nuts, chicken and turkey.
- Serve whole-grain breads and pastas instead of white flour-based carbohydrates.
- Broil, grill, or steam foods instead of frying them.
- Encourage your child to drink plenty of water and milk instead of sugary drinks, including fruit juice, soda, energy drinks and sweetened milks
- Limit fast food, takeout, and junk food:
- Make healthy options convenient and readily available, such as carrot sticks, cheese snacks, sliced apples and berries.
- Avoid fried snacks and opt for baked chips, pretzels, or unbuttered popcorn instead.
- If you do eat out or get takeout, choose the healthiest options available. Such as fruit instead of French fries or grilled chicken instead of crumbed chicken or a hamburger.
- Be a good role model for your child: Be sure that you are making healthy food choices and incorporating physical activity into your life.
- Make breakfast part of the morning routine.
- Don’t push food or insist that your child “clean the plate.”
- Encourage your child to eat slowly and to stop eating when he or she starts to feel full.
- Avoid using treats or junk food as rewards or comfort.
Most importantly, we need to know that the habits our children establish early in life, will most likely be carried on into adulthood.
Whether these are healthy habits or harmful ones, we’re the people teaching them by example. So, it’s up to us to seize the opportunity and give our children the vital tools they need for a lifetime of healthy living!