Being the mother of a child brings a lot of joy and many concerns. Ask any mom what worries her most and undoubtedly one of her top concerns will be diet since inadequate nutrition can put a child at risk for certain health conditions.
Some of these conditions are apparent during childhood but many will not be present until later in life. For example, malnutrition early in life can limit long-term intellectual development, excessive fat and calorie intakes and/or obesity are of concern because of their relationship to the development of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer later in life and development of optimum bone density in children can decrease the risk of osteoporosis as adults.
The list below contains some of the concerns that currently face moms. Note: These are not listed in order of importance.
- increasing physical activity
- having the right nutrients to promote best learning potential (cognitive function /development)
- having breakfast to help learning potential and the energy to “jump start” the brain and body
- having enough energy and balanced nutrition to get through a busy day of school and outside activities
- increasing immune function to ward off illness or increase recovery once infected with an illness
- adequate nutrients present for optimum growth and development
- increasing fluid intakes to maintain hydration
- decreasing snack intakes and increasing intake of fruits, vegetables and foods higher in fiber, to promote GI /intestinal health and improve overall intestinal quality
Key Nutrients that Address Health Concerns
It is possible to address some of these major concerns by ensuring that your children consume the proper nutrients. Listed below are some of these specific concerns and the associated nutrients that help address them.
Iron deficiency anemia can cause cognitive impairment in young children. In addition, too few calories over a prolonged period can cause difficulties in the ability to concentrate and stay alert.
All essential vitamins and minerals, as well as, adequate calories and protein are needed to ensure that children have the ability to grow and develop like they should. A nutritious, well-balanced diet, with appropriate amounts of calories for age and level of physical activity, and foods from all the food groups is a smart way to help kids get the nutrition they need. The diet quality of many children would be improved by increasing the consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, and limiting the consumption of saturated fats, calorie dense but nutrient poor foods like desserts, fried foods and candy.
Nutrients that help support a healthy immune system include zinc, vitamin C, protein, vitamin A, copper, and selenium. Make sure your family members are getting their recommended intake of these nutrients.
All sources of calories (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) are used by the body to help sustain energy levels. Most calories should come from carbohydrates (good choices are carbohydrates from whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes). Fat is the most concentrated source of calories in diet and good choices supply more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as nuts, seeds and olive or canola oils. Protein sources that should be chosen more often are lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry and fish. In addition there are a number of vitamins and minerals that are essential for converting the calories in food into energy our bodies can use. These include the B vitamins (especially thiamin, riboflavin, niacin).