The first 1,000 days of life of children are the period of the most intense growth and development. This process only works properly if the body is provided with the right building materials – nutrients from food.
For a child to develop well mentally and physically, it is necessary to consume food with the appropriate amount of energy, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, amino acids, sugars, fatty acids, macroelements, microelements, and vitamins.
Let’s discuss in detail the importance of nutrition for children.
Pediatricians recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life. Mother’s milk ensures proper psychophysical development and reduces the risk of many diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Moreover, breastfeeding is associated with less frequent or milder symptoms of infections of the digestive tract, respiratory tract, urinary tract, and otitis media.
Breast milk contains all the ingredients necessary for proper development, including the ones that influence the functioning of the immune system.
If you cannot breastfeed your baby, make sure to find a European formula for your little one that suits their nutritional needs best. Check with your baby’s pediatrician, who will help you choose the right product.
Principles of Rational Children Nutrition
Where are the main mistakes made, and how to avoid them? If you realize the following facts, you will look at preparing meals for your baby differently:
- 93% of children receive meals from the family table. Parents forget that a baby has special nutritional needs in the first 1,000 days of life, and the traditional diet doesn’t cover them.
- A toddler has up to six times more nutritional needs than adults. At the same time, a toddler’s stomach is up to five times smaller, so if they eat a bun or other sweet snack, they no longer have physical space for anything else. It is much better for babies and toddlers if they take vitamins in the form of fruits and vegetables.
- Both vitamins and minerals are important during this period. These are essential elements in a child’s development. Vitamin D and calcium are necessary for proper bone development, iron and iodine support cognitive functions, and vitamins C and A strengthen immunity.
Diet For a Child’s Brain
The brain develops intensively during the first two years of a child’s life. Certain nutritional deficiencies can affect memory, intelligence development, and social skills. One of the factors influencing the proper development of the nervous system is breastfeeding.
Nutrients of key importance for the functioning of the nervous system, including the brain, are iron, zinc, choline, iodine, B vitamins (including B12), vitamin D, and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (especially DHA, docosahexaenoic acid).
DHA acids are the building blocks of brain tissue. They also influence immunity and the development of eyesight and support intellectual development.
The DHA natural sources include fatty sea fish, such as Norwegian farmed salmon, Atlantic herring, sardines, sprat, farmed trout, flounder, cod, Atlantic mackerel, and hake.
Remember that infants should not be given fish such as shark, king mackerel, tuna, and tilefish due to their high mercury content.
The Role of Proteins, Fats, and Carbohydrates In Children’s Diet
Your baby’s diet should contain products of high nutritional value, covering the need for carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Both their deficiency and excess in the diet cause side effects.
Proteins help build new and rebuild damaged cells and tissues. Their other functions are structural, enzymatic, protective, transportive, and hormonal.
Proteins of animal origin belong to the group of complete protein sources and include, for example: eggs, milk and dairy products, and meat (including fish and poultry). Plant-based proteins include legumes, nuts, broccoli, and some other vegetables and fruit.
One gram of fat is 9 kcal, which is more than twice as much as protein or carbohydrates. Fats can become a reserve energy material thanks to subcutaneous and visceral fat tissue.
Besides, they are a source of omega-6 and omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids, a source of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), and protect the body against heat loss.
Sources of fat include vegetable oils, butter, lard, milk and milk products, meat and meat products, fish, eggs, nuts, and oilseeds.
Fat deficiency may cause a deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins. However, excess consumption of fats may lead to overweight and obesity, and thus to the development of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, and cancer.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body. The main sources of carbohydrates are cereal products, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, etc.
Carbohydrate deficiency can contribute to hypoglycemia, and severe deficiency can cause ketosis, vitamin deficiencies, constipation, acidosis, and even death.
Excessive consumption of carbohydrates may cause overweight and obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and cancer.
Balanced Nutrition Today – a Good Health Tomorrow
We should develop proper eating habits from an early age. Following the principles of a healthy lifestyle from early childhood is one of the most important elements of preventing lifestyle diseases.
Let us not forget that in the case of diseases such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers, it is an inappropriate eating pattern and insufficient physical activity that significantly increase the risk of their development in adulthood.
Every year, the number of children struggling with obesity increases. Parents with school-age children who are diagnosed with increased levels of cholesterol, glucose, and triglycerides in the blood are increasingly visiting dieticians’ offices.
A diet full of fresh vegetables and fruits, free from salty and sweet snacks and fast-food products, is the most important element of maintaining your child’s health.
Therefore, remember to develop balanced eating habits in your little ones from the very beginning.
Also, remember that the child learns through imitation. Therefore, you should also enrich your diet with healthy products and perform regular physical activity that will be a source of pleasure for you.
A healthy diet is delicious and does not mean giving up your child’s favorite foods, you just need to prepare them in the right way!