8 myths about child nutrition that need to end today
Toddlers and pre-teens are often fussy eaters as they might have distinct tastes or might be trying to assert their independence and identity with what they choose to eat. Naturally, inculcating good eating habits in them can be a challenging task for most Indian parents. Moreover, some common misconceptions about nutrition prevail in our country, which need to be cleared up, so that parents can provide healthy and wholesome meals to kids. Below are some of the prevalent myths and facts about child nutrition.
Myth 1: A child is aware of his or her food preference.
Fact: Every child prefers food as per his or her taste, with no specific choice. This is the reason why they like junk and sugary foods more often. To inculcate good eating habits, parents should sit together and make them pick from healthy choices at home. You can do this by offering a variety of healthy foods like green leafy vegetables, nuts, sprouts, lean proteins etc. Try and get your child involved in grocery shopping, and encourage them to choose natural foods in different colours or textures. Never force your child to eat certain foods that they dislike. Have patience in dealing with the tastes and preferences of children, which will develop gradually.
Myth 2: Eating frequently makes your child healthy.
Fact: It is one of the common myths about child nutrition that parents believe in. Most Indian parents think they should feed their child frequently to make them healthy. While small and frequent meals are better than 3 large main meals, excessive snacking can be harmful. And it can result in obesity in children too. So, provide wholesome foods at the right intervals to maximise growth and development in children.
Myth 3: Juicing is essential
Fact: No, fresh fruit juices are not as healthy as you think they are. Parents should ensure that children eat whole fruits as these provide more nutrients and fibre. Juicing is a good option when the child is in a hurry, but it reduces the fibre content and increases the sugar content of fruits. Hence, moderation should be exercised.
Myth 4: Healthy food can be fed to kids in disguise
Fact: Many Indian parents hide several vegetables in children’s meals with sauces or cheese, in order to make sure that they eat all the food without realising that there are veggies on the plate. Due to this, children don’t understand the importance of that food group. So, explain the nutritional value of each food group to your children, and get them involved in the kitchen to pique their interest. This will result in healthy food preferences in the future as well.
Myth 5: High sugar correlates with high energy
Fact: Sugar addiction is extremely harmful for a child’s health. Parent should understand that sugar only provides empty calories with no nutritive value. This addiction can further lead to behavioural issues in children, like mood swings. Instead, whole fruits or dry fruits can be offered to satiate their sweet tooth and also supply dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Myth 6: Child’s portion size is less - what to do?
Fact: Every child has a different appetite and it changes with age. If your child has the right weight and height for his age, it means he or she is eating enough. The amount your child eats is of concern, only if he or she is not growing steadily. Just make sure that diet is balanced and mealtimes are calm.
Myth 6: A vegetarian diet cannot ensure proper growth
Fact: That’s not true. Families who are vegetarians include milk and cottage cheese in their children’s diet to ensure proper growth and development. For strict vegetarians or vegans, careful meal planning is needed, so that the child gets adequate amounts of both macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Nuts, fruits, vegetables, and grains can provide sufficient nutrients to your child.
Myth 6: Don’t give your child foods that are known to cause allergies.
Fact: Most parents think that their children might react to foods that are commonly allergenic. And they end up eliminating such foods from the kids’ diet even before a proper diagnosis is reached. However, this is not right. Most allergies fade with time and don’t affect all children. Most allergies occur due to protein-based foods like milk, eggs, soy, shellfish etc. So, if you think that your child is allergic to a particular food item, talk to his or her paediatrician first, before deciding their diet.
Myth 7: My child is into sports and needs more carbohydrates.
Fact: If a child is eating a well balanced diet, then there is no need to add extra carbohydrates before a game. If they are into extended weekend-long games, then it is ideal to add extra carbohydrates, and that too, complex carbs. These take time to get digested and provide long hours of energy to your child too. Always make sure you balance the amount of protein with the amount of carbohydrates.
Myth 8: My child takes multivitamins daily, so he or she is getting all the nutrients.
Fact: This is one of the common child nutrition myths that prevent kids from getting adequate nutrients from natural foods. Multivitamins are not food substitutes. Rather, they are food supplements that enhance natural food intake. Children need to get most of the nutrients from natural sources like plants, animals and fortified products. Multivitamin tablets only provide some amount of vitamins and minerals that might be lacking in their everyday meals.
Indian parents often nurture wrong ideas about food and nutrition when it comes to their kids. Most of the information is received from friends, family members or even strangers, who believe in the myths themselves. Hence, it is important to look at reliable sources when it comes to making healthy choices regarding your child’s diet.
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