Make sure your children eat healthily when they leave the home environment and begin school.
The first day of school and kindergarten is just around the corner, and as parents, you might be feeling a little nervous about how your little one is going to cope with this big day.
Naturally, parents want their children to get the best start. One of the factors that parents need to consider in this new phase of their child’s life is his/her nutritional needs. Making sure your child continues to eat healthily outside of home is also an important part of their school or kindergarten routine. Not only will you ensure they get the vital nutrients required for their physical and mental growth but as parents, you will also be setting the critical foundation needed for their long-term health as an adult.
As children progress through the various stages of their lives, they have different nutritional needs. Early childhood from one to six years old, for example, is a period during which tremendous growth is experienced across all areas of development. In their first year, children start to crawl, walk and run, and in the following year, their height would have doubled and weight quadrupled.
This rapid development continues from the third year onwards, and because of this, they need essential nutrients such as calcium for stronger bones and teeth, magnesium to support calcium absorption, Vitamin D for calcium and phosphorus absorption, protein for the growth of muscle and tissue, and Vitamin A to maintain healthy eyes and keep skin and mucous membrane cells healthy.
At the same time, as children begin their formal education, their nutritional needs change, because they need nutrients that can help improve their learning capabilities and enhance their brain development for optimum academic performance.
A documented study on nutrition by Alaimo et al in 2001 shows that lack of proper nutrition can affect the academic performance of children because hunger can cause them to lose their concentration and impact brain development. thus, nutrients like Omega 3 and Omega 6 which are essential fatty acids that help enhance brin development for optimum academic performance, and Vitamin B3 and Vitamin B6 which help release energy from food are important for children between the ages of six and 12.
The growing up years are the years when food preferences start to be established.Hence, it is important to identify the right nutrients that can optimise your child’s physical and mental development. This includes drinking milk that’s made just right for your child’s age. So as a parent, what should you do to ensure that your child gets all the nutrition they need? Dutch Lady Malaysia Milk Industries Bhd senior nutritionist Loo Mei Fong shares some tips:
- Parents need to set a good example when it comes to eating the right foods. Incorporating a healthy diet into the family culture will naturally instill good eating habits amongst children. This will come in handy especially when kids are in school or in kindergarten, and parents have little say over what they eat. For parents, this also means snacking less on junk food, to avoid setting a bad example.
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it’s a source of energy to get a child grow the most when they sleep, using up a lot of energy in the process. thus, a good hearty breakfast will help kids replenish their nutritional needs for the day.
- Packing your child’s snack or lunch is another way to ensure your child eats healthily outside of home. Should parents be unsure about what foods to pack for their child, the new Malaysia Food Pyramid makes a great guide.
- Make sure you give your child the right portions so they don’t overeat. A child usually knows when he or she is too full, so make sure you are listening and observing carefully to know when to stop.
- For picky eaters, as difficult as it may be parents need to be firm when it comes to not giving in to their child’s every whim. Some tips that parents can consider:
> Present the food in creative arrangements, like arranging the carrots, peas and sandwhich in a smiley face.
>Use music, videos or games that encourage healthy eating; these methods can prove to be very effective tools to help a child understand the need to eat right. Telling stories with food can come in handy as well.
> Take your child grocery shopping and involve them in the food preparation process – children are naturally curious, so why not stir their interest in the food they eat. You can also educate them on the nutritional values of each food at the same time.
> Get the older siblings to motivate the younger ones.
> Give your child time to develop a liking to each food, and if they still disagree, then substitute the foods with other choices from the similar food group.
6. Don’t forget to give your child a packet of milk every day. After all, milk is one of the most complete of food sources, containing all the essential nutrients they need.
Looking for more information on Dutch Lady Milk visit www.dutchlady.com.my