Encouraging healthy eating habits in children can sometimes be a daunting task for parents. Add to that the information overload, which often leads to misconceptions about nutrition. It’s not uncommon for parents to believe in myths associated with food and nutrition. Unfortunately, these beliefs can lead to unhealthy eating habits and negatively impact your child’s overall well-being. Therefore, it becomes all the more necessary to bust these myths and differentiate fact from fiction. It will help parents make well-informed choices about the food they offer their children. Now let’s explore the idea of healthy food facts.
Myth 1: Multigrain products are healthy
There is a myth that multigrain is the healthiest option to consider while choosing food products. But this may not necessarily be true. Multigrain products are made from several grains, while whole grain products contain the entire grain, meaning the bran, germ, and endosperm. Additionally, be mindful of unhealthy ingredients in some multigrain products. Read labels carefully and look for products that contain whole grains, such as whole wheat, oats, or quinoa. Whole grains are unprocessed kernels that retain all their natural goodness, including protein, fibre, and essential vitamins.
Myth 2: Extra protein makes kids stronger
Many believe consuming large amounts of protein through food or supplements boosts muscle and strength. Numerous studies have consistently concluded that consuming extra protein does not lead to any additional improvements in muscle strength, size or mass. In fact, any excess protein beyond their needs will either be used as fuel or excreted from the body. In some cases, it may also get stored as fat. So, it’s crucial to ensure that children get the right amount of protein to support their growth and development without going overboard.
Myth 3: Children should not eat fat and opt for fat-free products
Another myth circulating for years is that children should avoid consuming fat and opt for fat-free products, instead. While it is true that excessive consumption of saturated and trans fats can cause health problems, not all fats are equal. Some fats are essential for a child’s growth and development. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, nuts, and seeds, are crucial for brain development and can help improve cognitive function in children.
Additionally, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in avocados, olive oil, and nuts, can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Instead of opting for fat-free products, parents can encourage their children to consume whole foods rich in healthy fats and other essential nutrients.
As for fat-free food products, many of us assume they are always the healthier option. However, the truth is that fat-free food often lacks the delicious flavour that we all crave. To make up for this, manufacturers often add some ingredients to their products, and they might not be the healthiest. So, the next time you reach for a fat-free snack, read the label carefully and consider the potential risks.
Myth 4: Fruit juices are a healthier option
A quick and easy option for children on the go is fruit juices. Packaged juices may not be as healthy as most of us take them to be. While they can help save time, juices also have reduced amounts of fibre in them. And therefore, they aren’t as effective and healthy. Instead of juices, parents must encourage their kids to eat fruits regularly.
Myth 5: Vegetarian kids don’t get enough nutrition
One of the most common misconceptions about vegetarianism is that children who follow a vegetarian diet don’t get enough nutrition. With proper planning and attention to nutrient intake, vegetarian children can meet their nutritional requirements. Parents must ensure that vegetarian children consume foods that provide essential nutrients such as protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin B12.
There is also a common misunderstanding that kids who do not consume non-vegetarian food do not get enough protein to support their growth and development. For vegetarian kids, parents must find alternative sources of protein. Luckily, there are plenty of options to choose from. Milk, yoghurt, paneer, pulses, lentils, nuts, seeds, and cereals are all great sources of protein that can help ensure your child gets the nutrients they need.
Myth 6: Supplements can compensate for the nutrients skipped through meals
Although multivitamins and mineral supplements are generally considered safe for children and adolescents when consumed in the recommended doses, they aren’t a substitute for a well-balanced diet. Prioritise whole, nutrient-dense foods in your kid’s diet to ensure they get all the vitamins and minerals for the proper functioning of their bodies. Moreover, it’s important to acknowledge that supplements cannot undo the negative consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle.
Myth 7: Kids will never eat foods that are disliked
Parents must respect a child’s food preferences and dislikes, but it is also important to remember that taste preferences can change over time. Research has shown that it can take up to 10-15 exposures to a new food before an individual begins to enjoy it. Forcing or bribing your child to finish any food they dislike may not be the best approach. Therefore, it is worth trying to reintroduce rejected foods at different times to see if they can be incorporated into their diet. Motivate them to try new foods, but don’t pressure them to finish everything on their plate.
Parents can help their kids learn good eating habits that will last a lifetime if they know the healthy eating facts and bust common food myths. By making informed choices, you can ensure your kids get the most out of the food you give them. There are also a lot of “healthy” food items on the market that claim to be the key to an improved life. However, a lot of them could be clever advertising. Parents should research and gather all the details from reliable sources before including a food item in their child’s diet. Every child is unique, and you can consult a qualified dietician or a nutritionist to understand what foods work best for your kid.
The views expressed are that of the expert alone.
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