Child Nutrition

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A child’s health is the first concern of any parent. Genetic factors aside, the biggest influence on overall child health can be the nutrition provided. A healthy growing body requires carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and water. Traditionally, most home-cooked food provides adequate amounts of these. Still, with the rise of highly processed food and fad diets in the media, many children show ill effects – they are overweight and can suffer vitamin deficiency. There is also a sharp decline in adults who know how to cook nutritious food.
Eating behaviors are developed in the early years of childhood. Children learn what, when, and how much to eat through direct experiences with food and observing other people. Many parents expect their children to exercise and eat all food groups while never demonstrating these behaviors themselves. Therefore, it is also expected that adults who have poor relationships with food often pass it on to their children.

Across human history, the primary threat to our survival has been a scarcity of food. Hence, our brain evolved to think that high-calorie food is a reward. However, now that most of us live in an abundance of high-calorie food, our brains have not caught up with this change. Therefore, fatty and sugary food still taste so good to us even though they are no longer a scarce resource at all. This problem is compounded by the fact that large populations live in food deserts – where the only affordable option available is ultra-processed food with high calories but low vitamins and minerals.

Fad diets and celebrity culture also have a role in jeopardizing child nutrition. Children (especially tween and teens) are increasingly exposed to advertisements for new diets, which often demonize an entire food group or peddle dubious products for weight loss. We’ve seen the deluge of ‘fatless’ substitutes in the markets, which substitute the fat with sugar and do more harm than good. Vitamin A, D, E, and K are vital to the proper functioning of the body and are all fat-soluble. And yet, many celebrities openly endorsed such unscientific diets. Heavily altered images of ‘ideal’ body types can also wreak havoc on a child’s self-image. Reports show that children as young as five are critical of their bodies and want to change their aspects. This dissatisfaction keeps growing in girls, reaching a peak at 16-21 years of age. This is one of the many reasons why nutritionists and pediatricians want you to use parental control on screens – television or the internet.
Food and the act of eating should be the most natural thing for any living being. And yet, so many children are torn between listening to their own body, hunger cues, and the very mixed messaging the world around them provides. Of course, the solution lies in making whole foods more accessible and in the adults embracing good habits. We also have a collective responsibility in ensured that more unfiltered, actual images of healthy people become the norm in media.

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