According to World Health Organization (WHO), forty-one million children under the age of five were either overweight or obese in 2016. Overweight and obesity have increased dramatically among children and adolescents aged 5 to 19, from 4% in 1975 to just 18% in 2016. Despite the amount of data available, it can be difficult to sort through and decipher what a balanced diet and healthy eating habits would look like for your child. To enforce a sustainable and healthy lifestyle for your child, you must first understand what good nutrition consists of, how it affects childhood development, and what steps you can take to ensure your child adopts a healthy eating habits. What Exactly is Good Nutrition for Children and Young Children?Children’s nutrition is based on the same basic principles as adult nutrition. A healthy and appropriate balance of diet and exercise, as well as a valuable lifestyle, are the keys to proper nutrition. Grains, dairy, protein, vegetables, and fruit are the five main food groups and are a good starting point for any child’s diet. The proportions of each food group will be heavily influenced by age, genetic makeup, and physical activity. Understanding each food group is essential for developing a well-balanced and nutritious diet for your child. GrainGrains are classified into two types: whole grains and refined grains. Because they use the entire grain kernel, whole grains are more nutritious. Oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, and brown rice are examples of whole-grain products. Refined grains have generally been milled and processed several times to improve shelf life and texture. Many valuable nutritional benefits are lost during the refining process, so whole grains are a better option. Cereal, tortillas, white bread, and white rice are all examples of refined grains. VegetablesThe vegetable group includes any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice. Vegetables are classified as raw, cooked, dehydrated, canned, whole, juiced or mashed. It is also divided into five subcategories: dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables. Because some vegetables are denser and nutrient-packed than others, the portion size of each will depend on which subcategory it belongs to. Organic, non-organic, and non-GMO (non-genetically modified organism) vegetables are some of the subcategories of vegetables. FruitThe fruit category includes any fresh fruit or 100% fruit juice. Canned, frozen, dried, pureed, or juiced fruits are all options. The fruit has a high sugar content, so it is best to build a dietary balance based on age, activity level, time of day, and gender. Same to vegetables, fresh fruit can be further categorized into organic, non-organic, and non-GMO. Protein & DairyMeat, poultry, beans, peas, eggs, seafood, and nuts are examples of foods that fall into the protein food group. It is best if your child’s meat and poultry sources are lean and low in fat. The dairy food group includes all fluid milk products and products made primarily from milk. Milk, yoghurt, and cheese are examples of dairy products. Dairy has been a controversial food group in recent years, and as a result, many nutritionally comparable dairy alternatives have been provided with higher nutritional value. As a result, this category includes fortified dairy alternatives such as soy, almond, and cashew milk, as well as nut cheeses. Your child’s diet and lifestyle may differ depending on their age and unique genetic makeup, with a focus on certain nutritional guidelines during one age range and many different guidelines during another. The Good Nutrition for ToddlersToddlers (ages 1-3) can be a pretty challenging age group to feed a nutritious diet to. Many developmental changes occur during this period, which has an impact on their food or supplement intake. Toddlers are in a stage of development and growth that slows significantly, affecting hunger and diet. In addition to a decrease in appetite, toddlers are exploring independence and control. This can lead to quarrels over specific foods, mealtimes, and portion sizes. It is recommended that toddlers consume 3-5 ounces of grains per day, depending on their age, activity level, and gender. One ounce is roughly equivalent to one slice of bread. 12 cup rice or oatmeal, or one small (4-inch) pancake. In terms of vegetables, toddlers should consume 1-2 cups of vegetables from each of the five subcategories per day. Given that some toddlers are just beginning to accept table foods, it is best to offer soft, cooked vegetables cut into very small pieces. This not only helps toddlers chew and swallow vegetables, but it also reduces the risk of choking. Toddlers should also eat 1 cup of fruit per day. This could break down into half of a banana for breakfast, half of an apple for snacks, 8 sliced grapes, half a cup of cooked broccoli, and half a cup of peas and carrots. To gain the full range of nutritional benefits, it is critical to introduce variety within the five food groups. Most toddlers should consume around 13 grammes of protein per day.A general rule of thumb for determining how much protein your child should consume daily is to base it on their weight. Protein-recommended dietary allowances are calculated using the guideline of 0.5 grammes of protein per pound of body weight. As a result, a 2-year-old weighing 30 pounds would require approximately 15 grammes of protein per day. This could be equivalent to half an egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or a quarter cup of beans. Toddlers should consume calcium-fortified juices, milk, and cheeses in much smaller amounts, such as 1 cup of milk or 60 grammes of cheese. The Good Nutrition for Pre-schoolers The preschool years (ages 3-5) are an important time for children to develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Because pre-schoolers grow in spurts, their appetites can be inconsistent. This is normal, and if parents provide a healthy variety, their children will be provided with flexible options. The proportions of grains, protein, vegetables, fruits, and dairy vary according to size, age, and gender. Calcium intake is a critical component for young developing preschool children. Calcium is also required for the development of strong, healthy bones and teeth. Contrary to popular belief, traditional dairy milk is not the best source of calcium. This is due to the fact that the calcium in dairy milk is less bioavailable (a substance entering the circulation when introduced into the body and so able to have an active effect) to developing bodies. Calcium is best obtained from dark leafy greens such as kale, broccoli, and bok choy. With a 40% absorption rate, about half of cooked leafy greens can proved around 300mg of calcium. Fibre is another important supplement to consider. Fibre promotes bowel movements, which helps digestion and prevents constipation. Most whole grain products, as well as fruits and vegetables, contain fibre. Though it may be difficult at times to persuade your child to eat vegetables instead of starchy processed foods like macaroni and cheese and chicken nugget, it will make a world of difference. What Impact Does Nutrition Have on Young Children?A proper nutritional diet and a healthy lifestyle can have long-term effects on young children. Children are highly impressionable during their early development and begin to implement routines and tools that they will carry with them into adulthood. Aside from developing habits and routines, children who do not receive adequate nutrition as they grow up can suffer from physical illness. Obesity, osteoporosis, decreased muscle mass, changes in hair volume and texture, fatigue, irritability, and type 2 diabetes are some of the most common issues for malnourished children. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat within the 95th percentile of one’s BMI, or Body Mass Index. Obesity is also more likely in children who do not eat a well-balanced diet and consume excessive amounts of fat, sugar, and processed carbohydrates. Obesity also can cause a number of long-term health issues in children, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and emotional issues. Young children are highly impressionable and can experience body shame and emotional issues as a result of the food they eat. When children consume sugary, processed, and high-fat foods, their digestive system and gut flora suffer. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that can be caused by a lack of calcium absorption that causes porous, weak, and brittle bones. Early nutrition and lifestyle decisions made by children and their parents can have long-term consequences for children. Because most people reach their peak bone mass at the age of 20, it is critical to building muscle and bone mass during childhood. Overweight children experience fatigue and irritability, which can lead to depression. Furthermore, overweight children may struggle with physical activity and are frequently unable to participate in physical activities with their peers. This can lead to emotional isolation, poor social interactions and low self-esteem. A well-balanced and healthy nutritional diet is more important than counting calories in developing children. How to Make Sure Your Child Eats Healthily and Exercises Without support, guidance, education, and routine, it can be difficult to ensure your child is eating healthy and staying fit. As children grow older, they begin to form opinions about what tastes good to them and what does not. Most of the time, this does not correspond to what is nutritionally best for them.The Stanford Children’s Health Hospital recommends avoiding fights over food and meal and providing regular snacks and meals. Children can be picky, avoidant, or hard at times. If your toddler or pre-schooler is a picky eater who refuses to eat certain foods, it is best to give up and try again later. They will be most likely to begin to warm up to the healthy options provided. As previously stated, young children are developing their independence and opinions, and as a result, they vary. It can also be beneficial to establish a regular feeding time and spot for your child. Positive connections can be formed by promoting healthy food choices, regular eating habits, nutrition education, and personal interaction during mealtimes. Given that children are highly perceptive human beings, it is advantageous to create positive and healthy experiences for them. Involving children in food preparation and selection can also be a valuable learning tool. When in the grocery store or even in your refrigerator, it can be helpful to engage with your child to help select foods based on nutritional value and explain how they can help developing bodies. Parents are also encouraged to use specific serving sizes and demonstrate the equivalents to them. This nutrition education can help children understand and implement appropriate serving sizes as they grow older, as well as maintain healthy eating habits. It can also be beneficial for parents to pack a homemade snack or lunch for their children to bring to school. Instead of packing processed foods or junk food, choose food high in healthy fats and nutrients. This ensures that a well-balanced and nutritious meal is always available. Physical activity, as always, is just as important as proper nutrition. Most days of the week, children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Parents can encourage physical activity by limiting their child’s time spent watching television and playing video games and encouraging more physically active routines such as walking, running, and playing ball. Because children learn primarily through direct observation, it is critical for parents to actively participate in their children's life regarding nutrition and exercise. You are modelling a positive, healthy, and sustainable lifestyle for your child by leading by example. To find out more about your child’s nutrition needs, Decode Nutrition DNA Test will get you covered! You may visit www.agtgenetics.com for more information!