1. Base your child’s diet on natural, unadulterated foods
A healthy diet is one based on whole, unprocessed foods such as meat, fish, seafood, eggs, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. These ‘primal’ foods have been part of the human diet for extended periods during our evolution, and are therefore the foods to which, after weaning, the human body is best adapted.
2. Avoid giving your child too much in the way of fast and processed food
Fast and processed foods tend to be rich in dietary elements that can have adverse effects on health including refined sugar, salt and food additives. Another common ingredient in fast and processed foods are industrially-produced fats known as ‘trans’ fatty acids that have been shown to have particularly adverse effects on health.
3. Don’t worry about the occasional slip-ups or treats
It is easy to become neurotic about the range and extent of dietary hazards that your child will inevitably run into. It is nigh-on impossible to get all unhealthy foods out of a child diet. The key here is balance. It’s what children eat most of the time, not some of it, that determines the overall effect of the diet on their health.
4. Put emphasis on breakfast and family meals
Breakfast eating is associated with better nutrition as well as improved school attendance and academic performance. Family meals are to be encouraged too, as the more of these a child eats, the more nutritious his or her diet tends to be. Regular family gatherings for feeding is associated with greater nutritional awareness too.
5. Snacking may have benefits for health too
Eating between meals provides an opportunity for children to eat health-giving foods, such as fruit and nuts, that they may not consume at other times. Snacking may also quell the appetite and help to maintain levels of sugar in the bloodstream. This reduces the risk of overeating, and will help to stabilise energy levels and mood too.
6. Emphasise omega-3 fats in the diet
There is increasing evidence that our diet is generally deficient in so-called omega-3 fats that are believed to help brain development in children and may be useful in combating a wide range of conditions including hyperactivity, dyslexia and depression. Good sources of omega-3 fats include oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring and sardine and omega-3 enriched eggs.
7. Avoid basing your child’s diet on potato and refined grains such as white bread, pasta, white rice and many breakfast cereals
Many starchy carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, rice, pasta and breakfast cereals give rapid release of sugar into the bloodstream which can upset the body’s chemistry and predispose to a variety of health issues including excess weight and diabetes. Unrefined grains such as wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta, brown rice and whole oats are better as these release sugar more slowly into the bloodstream than their refined versions, and are more nutritious too.
8. Make water the principal drink for your child
Drinking water is important for a general well-being (including improved brain function and behaviour) and has been linked to a reduction in risk of major illnesses such as heart disease and some forms of cancer too. While milk is a reasonably nutritious drink, some children do not tolerate it well and may have health issues such as eczema, tonsillitis and ear infections as a result. Fruit juices are often regarded as healthy, but they contain about the same sugar concentration as soft drinks. While there is some room for other drinks in the diet, water should make up bulk of a child’s fluid needs.
9. Lead by example and be persistent
Evidence suggests that when parents eat healthily, the children more likely to follow suit and tend to need minimal encouragement to do so too. Also, don’t be put off making available to a child a food that has previously been rejected: studies show that repeated offering, without cajoling, often gets there in the end.
10. Supplementation with nutrients is likely to have benefits for your child in the long term
Ensuring a child gets the range and levels of nutrients it needs for optimum health and development is easier said than done. There is evidence that the levels of nutrients in the diet has declined significantly in the last 50 years, and Government statistics show that many children are getting inadequate levels of key elements including iron and zinc. Nutritional supplementation can help plug any nutritional gaps left by the diet, and can help ensure a child’s healthy growth and development. BioCare (0121 433 3727) supply high quality supplements for children in both powder (Kids Complete Complex) and capsule (Kids Complete Capsule) form.