Do you find it hard to feed your children with nutritious food like fruits and vegetables? When this thought comes across your mind, it often slips off as though it does not really matter.
However, the fact of the matter is a child's development is highly dependent on their nutrient’s intake.
Before digging into the topic, let’s have a better understanding on what nutrients are and the importance of having a balanced nutritional diet.
Nutrients are compounds found in foods which are essential to health and life. Different nutrients have their own functions. Primarily, they provide energy, act as building blocks for growth and repair, and regulate chemical processes.
The human body cannot synthesize nutrients itself, thus we must obtain nutrients from our diet. Therefore, a balanced diet consisting of all the required nutrients in its appropriate amount is needed.
While many are aware that a balanced diet maintains a healthy weight, the advantages are more than just one's weight maintenance. Good nutrition is critical to improve a person's well-being and recovery from injury or illness. A well-balanced diet also lowers high cholesterol level and strengthens the immune system to fend off illnesses.
Good nutrition is always needed regardless of the age. Nevertheless, the preschool years, specifically ages ranging from three to five years old, are influential period to ensure a healthy child's development that lasts a lifetime.
Childhood is always the critical period for establishing healthy growth and development including physical, emotion and mental abilities. Hence, there is a significant scientific interest in influencing a child’s nutritional level since young to aid in their growth and development.
Here are some facts all parents need to know about.
1. Brain development
Quality nutrients are needed for brain development. All nutrients contribute their roles in brain development but certain nutrients have greater influences during the neonatal and late fetal time periods.
These include iron, protein, iodine, folate, selenium, vitamin A, choline, and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. It has been proven that brain development is the most sensitive to an infant’s nutrition between mid-gestation and two years of age.
Due to this, newborn mothers should provide breast milk as it offers the ideal and best mix of nutrients for brain growth. Hence, parents do not have to worry about their children who do not eat vegetables and fruits at this early stage.
2. Emotional health
There is a misconception that nutrition level will not affect emotional health.
When it comes to our natural food intake, many have no idea what we are supposed to eat to regulate our emotion. Yet, nutrients such as vitamin B6, folate, and choline are critical in synthesizing neurotransmitters, a brain chemical, which regulate one’s memory and mood. Consequently, deficiency of these nutrients is associated with mood-related emotions like depression and anxiety.
Therefore, an increase in nutrient-rich food such as fish and legumes and a decrease in junk food consumption during a child’s development have a significant impact on their wellbeing and mood. Parents should also ensure their food intake consists of omega-3 fatty acid which helps in decreasing stress and mood disorders.
3. Physical health
Healthy eating patterns with adequate nutrition is a good way to prevent malnutrition. Malnutrition includes under-nutrition or overnutrition, both of which play an important role to a child’s development with life-long effects.
During childhood, under-nutrition can cause kids to have lesser energy and interest during learning, which negatively affects their cognitive development and academic performance. It also affects physical growth and maturation, and body height and weight.
Apart from that, obesity, a form of malnutrition, which is also known as overnutrition, is possible to have low nutrient-density along with high levels of fat and carbohydrate. Thus, malnutrition affects their competence and confidence during physical activity, showing how it can further deteriorate an established growth and development in kids.
4. Behavioural development
Proper nutrition helps to develop well behavioural development in children.
However, it is unfortunate that many parents do not realize what their kids eat daily could impact their behaviour. For example, dairy consumption among children is related to hyperactivity. This means that some kids act out more than usual after eating foods with high dairy content such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Nevertheless, this does not indicate that parents are not allowed to provide their kids with foods containing dairy products. Instead, a regular consumption of dairy should be taken in place to avoid an imbalanced diet.
Although adjusting a kid’s diet might seem like an intimidating task at first, many parents will feel relieved when their child has positive changes in their behaviour according to a well-balanced nutrition.
Moreover, social behaviours have been proven to be more susceptible to the consequences of having poor nutrition. This is evident in children who had poor diets during the critical period from birth to two years old in how they appeared to be less active and withdrawn compared to their peers.
Well... what is the takeaway?
Parents are key individuals to their children's healthy growth and development. We cannot expect our children to eat healthy on their own accord, and this responsibility lies in parents.
Parents must learn and know about healthy eating to help their children to grow with a well-balanced diet.
So, do train your kids well with all the nutrients they need since young. And of course, kids observe and imitate their parents' actions; hence, remember to always be a good role model with the type of food you consume in front of them.
Gifford, B. E. (February 2020). Food for thought: Does what my kids eat affect their mental health? Retrieved from Happiful Magazine. https://happiful.com/food-kids-mental-health/
'Zero to Three'. (n.d.). How does nutrition affect the developing brain? Retrieved from https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1372-how-does-nutrition-affect-the-developing-brain
'Abbott Nutrition'. (January 2020). How nutrition can shape a child’s emotional well-being. Retrieved from https://www.nutritionnews.abbott/pregnancy-childhood/kids-growth/how-nutrition-can-shape-a-child-s-emotional-well-being/
Karratti, D. (December 2018). How poor nutrition affects child development. Hello Motherhood. Retrieved from https://www.hellomotherhood.com/how-poor-nutrition-affects-child-development-7850348.html
'Children's Bureau'. (May 2018). Importance of good nutrition for young children. Child Abuse Prevention, Treatment & Welfare Services. Retrieved from https://www.all4kids.org/news/blog/importance-of-good-nutrition-for-young-children/