The importance of good childhood nutrition
WHAT IS CHILDHOOD NUTRITION?
Childhood nutrition involves making sure that children aged between five and eleven eat healthy foods to help them grow and develop normally, as well as to help prevent obesity and future disease. Therefore there should be a balance between the high energy and nutrient content required by children and weight control.
BENEFITS OF GOOD NUTRITION:
– Better performance at school
– Developing strong bones
– Growing healthily
– Maintaining a healthy weight
– Establishing healthy food preferences which will be carried on later in life
– Reducing risk of chronic diseases later in life
CONSEQUENCES OF POOR NUTRITION:
– Likely behavioural, emotional and academic problems at school
– Short stature
– Delayed puberty
– Nutrient deficiencies (eg iron deficiency anaemia)
– Menstrual irregularities
– Poor bone health
– Risk of injuries
– Increased risk of eating disorders
– Dental cavities
WHAT IS GOOD NUTRITION?
School children should eat a healthy, varied diet based on the Eatwell plate, developed by the Department of Health. This will ensure a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, meat, fish and adequate calories in order for children to grow and develop properly.
Therefore, based on the Eatwell plate, a child’s diet should be made up of:
33% bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods
33% fruit and vegetables
15% milk and dairy foods
12% meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
8% foods and drinks high in fat and or/sugar
ADDITIONAL THINGS TO CONSIDER
-Breakfast is important to provide energy stores for the morning’s activities. Consequently children who have a healthy breakfast are less likely to snack on high fat or sugary foods and tend to have a better spread of nutrients throughout the day.
– Children should be discouraged from adding salt to their meals. Too much salt on a regular basis is likely to result in a preference for salty foods later in life, which could in turn contribute towards high blood pressure and other potential health problems later.
-Children should be taught to think about dental hygiene and ways of preventing dental caries. Hence they should be encouraged to think about the number of times a day that they have foods and drinks containing sugar, and if possible to restrict them to meal times.
-Children need to be guided towards choosing snacks that provide a range of essential nutrients as well as energy, such as yoghurts, milk or sandwiches. Additionally the temptation to use sugary snacks as rewards should try to be avoided.
Many children in the UK are now overweight or even obese. Childhood obesity increases the chances of chronic disease in later life and there is already a current trend of increased incidence of type 2 diabetes in obese teenagers. It is not usually advised for children to go on a slimming diet as this may interfere with their growth and development.
However, combining healthy eating and increased physical activity within the family set up will mean that the child maintains their weight or increases slightly whilst their height increases. Moreover involving the whole family in healthy eating and physical activities will help children gain a healthy lifestyle for the long term.
‘Dr Sumi Soori MBBS, MRCGP, DRCOG is a Private General Practitioner at Roseneath Medical Practice, who also has a strong interest in Paediatrics and Women’s health.
For more information go to http://www.roseneath.co.uk