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What does eating nutritious

and varied options mean?



For children at all ages, eating well is what is needed to make learning, living, playing, and growing possible. Children
should be given meals made up of foods that provide nutrients and are therefore considered nutritious for their bodies.
Giving children foods rich in nutrients is what allows them to learn as is appropriate for their age, to move and play, and
to grow from young children to teenagers and upwards.

As a parent, you need to give your child foods that will give them the following nutrients:

  • Carbohydrates, the main energy source needed for the body’s systems to function. Examples of systems is the heart and its network of veins and arteries which pumps blood, supplying oxygen to all the cells of the body, the kidneys that clear waste products from the body, and the lungs that breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Even the brain network is a system that is always at work!
  • Proteins are the building blocks of the body, making children taller, bigger and stronger – as well as fixing any damage after injuries. Proteins are also an alternative energy source when needed but this should not happen in growing children. Proteins also play an important part in children’s immune system which protects and fights against illness and disease.
  • Fats are another important energy source, in particular when children are sleeping and when they are exercising. Fats also create a protective cushion for vital organs, like the liver.
  • There are about 26 vitamins and minerals found in food that are known to be necessary for a child to consume. They are needed for the body to be able to use the other nutrients, and in that way keep all the body’s systems in operation. For example, without calcium the heart would not be able to pump blood, and the blood needs iron to transport oxygen throughout the body.
  • Water, without which nothing in the body would work.

As you have read, all nutrients are important and not having enough of any one of them will not be good for your child. It is important to keep in mind that no single food has all the nutrients. Oatmeal, maize meal, bread or pasta will provide mostly carbohydrates, a little protein and selected vitamins and minerals. Meat, chicken or fish will provide your child with protein, some fat, and specific vitamins and minerals. Beans and lentils are naturally fat-free and animal-free proteins. Vegetables such as spinach, pumpkin or beetroot will give loads of vitamins and minerals and some protein. Fruits also offer loads of vitamins and minerals, and some carbohydrates. Milk and other dairy products provide protein, some carbohydrates and specific vitamins and minerals. It is therefore necessary to use different foods to prepare nutritious meals for your child, and to also give nutritious foods as snacks in between the meals. Last but not least: All children need to drink clean water regularly throughout the day.



How are we getting it wrong?



At around three years of age, parents start dealing with the very vocal preschool child who tells you what they want to and what they refuse to eat. Unfortunately, what they prefer to eat is not always nutritious, and it narrows down your options as a parent, throwing the notion of a nutritious and varied diet out the window. Once children get away with selecting foods they want at that young age, it is very difficult to change this behaviour as they get older and move into primary school. In dealing with the ‘I won’t eat that’ mindset, parents tend to purchase mostly foods they know their child will enjoy, further limiting the availability of a variety of nutritious foods in the house.

Fruits and vegetables are the foods most likely to be rejected, leading to many children not eating enough. Parents may even stock up on a lot of non-nutritious foods that are more widely accepted such as high-fat/salt foods, highly processed meats, and high-sugar drinks. All of these food choices end up making their way into children’s school lunch pack, negatively affecting their ability to learn at school.

Finding solutions to the problem starts with education, and that is why you are here on this page, reading and learning about nutrition. Once you know as a parent what is good for your child and how to include a variety of nutritious foods in their diet, you are on the right track.

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