Today, food is a controversial subject that is on everyone’s lips. The dramatic advances in food and nutritional science over the past decades show the importance of proper nutrition as one of the best ways to promote health and physical and emotional well-being.
What is healthy eating?
A healthy diet is one that meets the nutritional and physiological needs of the child in order to ensure proper growth and development. It must be balanced, adequate according to requirements and sensorially satisfactory.
For all children, early childhood is a determining factor in learning healthy habits and implementing correct eating patterns, which will be decisive throughout their lives.
What are nutrients and their effect ?
The discovery of the nutrients and the functions they perform within our bodies has given us a perfect understanding of many of the properties of foods that until relatively recently were intuited or were part of popular wisdom.
Scientific advances introduce us in depth to the world of food and the relationship that eating habits have with health. Each study, each research, reaffirms us in that the idea that the most adequate diet is the one that takes into account all the conditions that characterize us as people educated in a certain culture, with specific eating habits, tastes, state of health, customs and ideals, physical activity and different lifestyles.
Therefore, there is not an ideal diet for everyone, but there is a universal criterion regarding the type of food that should be consumed within the daily diet, which on the one hand guarantees that the energy and nutritional needs of all the people that make up a healthy population are covered, and on the other hand, collaborates in the prevention of certain alterations and diseases related to nutritional imbalances.
What do we call nutrients?
They are the substances that our organism can use to make life possible and which are found in food distributed in an uneven way: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Water and fiber do not nourish, but they play a very important role for the proper functioning of our body.
What does the expression “balanced diet” mean?
A balanced diet is one that includes a sufficient diversity of foods in the right quantities, depending on the characteristics of each person (age and physiological situation – infancy, pubertal stretching, pregnancy and lactation -, sex, body composition and complexion…) and their lifestyle (active, sedentary…), and which guarantees that the energy and nutrient requirements that our organism needs to maintain a good state of nutrition, health and well-being are covered.
Foods that should never be missing from our table
Nutrients are not evenly distributed in the food. In each food, therefore, one or another nutrient predominates. This has led to classifying them into different groups, according to their nutritional affinity or the main function that the predominant nutrients in each food play within our body.
Foods belonging to the same group can be interchangeable, always in the right amounts, since they share similar nutritional properties. This allows us to vary the diet a lot without significantly modifying the nutritional composition of the daily diet. We should not forget that within some groups there are differences in terms of fat and sugar content (full or skimmed milk, fatty or lean meats, sugar-free or sweetened yoghurts…), which results in a greater or lesser number of calories.
Feeding guidelines for children
The main exogenous factor contributing to the normal growth and development of the child is food. Therefore, it is important to offer the child a balanced and varied diet that contains all the necessary nutrients for the proper functioning of the body.
Over the years, the relationship between nutrition and health has been consolidated until it has been confirmed that lifestyles and eating habits are capable of preventing and improving the clinical situation of some diseases such as ischemic heart disease, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, cancer, obesity, etc.
These diseases, which usually appear in adulthood, can be said to develop at earlier ages. Because of this, it is recommended, from early childhood, to educate in healthy eating habits so that these habits are consolidated in adolescence and maintained in adulthood.
In the case of children and adolescents with a Congenital Metabolic Error who have a diet without any type of restriction these recommendations are completely valid.
In the case of special diets, there are three essential objectives that will contribute to improved diet adherence and good metabolic control:
- To teach and promote essential foods for the normal growth of the child.
- Appreciating dietary differences.
- Learning how to manage the special diet, will be the objectives
Parents have the responsibility to adapt the family table so that the child learns to enjoy the foods allowed daily, offering variety, different culinary preparations, etc. that will contribute to the acceptance of the special diet.
Recommendations for children and adolescents
- Children imitate family customs, so healthy eating habits must be taught, and practice must be set.
- It is advisable to have 5 – 6 meals a day.
- Breakfast is important! Breakfast prepares us to start the day and get us ready for school. It is advisable to make a first breakfast at home and another one at school.
- Eat fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables, both for main dishes, as a dessert or garnish. It is recommended to have about 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
- Calcium helps us to keep our bones strong, so make sure you eat dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese every day.
- It is important to eat all types of fish. Fish is a source of high-quality protein, minerals, vitamins and omega-3s.
- Eat foods rich in fiber such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole-grain products.
- You should limit your intake of packaged juices and soft drinks, as well as baked goods, crisps, and “fast food”, etc. These should be reserved for special occasions, as they are of poor nutritional value.
- The most suitable cooking techniques contain little fat. They can be steamed, boiled, poached, baked, papillote, grilled, broiled and grilled.
- It matters what a child eats for several days, not what he eats in one day or at one meal.
The television time should not exceed 2 hours and should not be watched below the age of 2.
- It is advisable to do physical activity appropriate to the age and possibilities of each child. Sport is good for your health!