As a wellness consultant, nutritionist and mother of three, Annie Lee always makes sure her children are eating well and getting enough nutrients. She says many of her patients are parents who come to seek her advice on a healthy diet for their kids. Let’s discover how Annie uses her professional knowledge to help kids resist the temptation to eat unhealthy snacks and develop a healthy and balanced diet.
Kids who love flavorsome food are prone to picky eating behavior
Uncontrolled snacking is a common habit that contributes to the picky eating behavior commonly seen during childhood. Annie explains that replacing normal meals with snacks that are high in oil, salt and sodium will cause children to develop a greater desire for food with strong flavors, and thus cause picky eating behavior. This may even lead to constipation and other gastrointestinal problems. “Parents often think that snacking is part of the diet, so they allow their kids to indulge in snacks with low nutritional value just to make them full, resulting in unhealthy eating habits.”
Caffeine and sugary drinks are invisible killer
As a mother of three, Annie has set very clear boundaries and forbids the consumption of sugary drinks, including sodas and juice drinks, in the early stages of childhood. She explains that every cell in our body needs water, but sugary drinks are of no help as they slowly change children’s sense of taste, and sooner or later the kids will refuse to drink plain water. She suggests avoiding all kinds of sugary drinks, including pressed juices, and staying away from caffeinated drinks.
Many drinks on the market are packed with caffeine. “Do you really believe Diet Coke is better for your health? In fact, Diet Coke contains an even higher amount of caffeine than ordinary Coke. As children have a much slower body metabolism for caffeine, such consumption may affect their quality of sleep at night.”
Unstable blood sugar level makes children cranky
Annie says that every child has a sweet tooth – they are all big fans of sweets, chocolates and cakes. “Some parents think that cakes are healthier options, and often give them to their kids for breakfast. Some even buy them fish balls or siu mai for breakfast.” She believes that an unhealthy breakfast is worse than not having breakfast at all!
Annie also explains that foods packed with sugar are often more filling and emotionally comforting. When kids consume sugar, the serotonin levels in their brains quickly rise and then drop again, resulting in periodic mood swings. Also, children may find themselves more likely to lose their temper and experience a lack of concentration, severely affecting their performance in class. Foods like fish balls and siu mai are high in sodium, which may cause a mineral imbalance inside the body and affect the development of some organs, increasing the risk of having high blood pressure in the future.
To meet our daily nutritional needs, a perfect breakfast should contain protein, carbohydrates and plenty of fibre. Annie suggests sandwiches made from whole wheat bread with cheese and vegetables. Parents can also try different combinations based on their own preference using oats, eggs, milk, sweet potato, corn, steamed buns, etc.
Lack of sleep may affect nutrient intake
Many people are now following a “little-and-often” diet. Annie says it's important to do enough exercise and get adequate sleep in order to maintain effective nutrient absorption. One of her patients is a boy in third grade at an international school. He is shorter than most of his peers of the same age. Although the boy has adopted a little-and-often diet, and has been doing enough exercise, his dietary nutrient intake is hampered due to a lack of sleep as he has been involved in too many extra-curricular activities.
According to a report published by the National Sleep Foundation1, children aged 3-5 should sleep 10 to 13 hours a day, while children aged 6-13 should sleep 9 to 11 hours. Lack of sleep will increase junk food cravings, affect nutrient intake and absorption, and make you fall into a vicious circle that only leaves you even more tired than you already are, resulting in memory loss and difficulty concentrating.
The more fruits the better?
Not all fruits have the same nutritional value. For example, blueberries are rich in anthocyanin, and regular consumption can improve our eyesight, while lycopene-packed cherry tomatoes are rich in antioxidants that can enhance our immunity. Also, dragon fruits are rich in fibre, a perfect choice if you are looking to improve your gastrointestinal health. On the other hand, watermelon, melon and honeydew melons have less fibre and are packed with fructose, therefore regular consumption is not recommended. Children under 12 years old are encouraged to eat only two servings of fruit each day (one serving of fruit equals six green grapes or half a dragon fruit) to avoid excessive fructose intake.
Having a strong physique is the foundation of growth for children. It’s important that parents must keep good nutrition checkpoints. Remember not to let them fall in love with caffeine, addiction to sweetness, lack of sleep that affects nutrient absorption, and eat too much fruit.
To learn more about how to provide health protection to your children.
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