Nutrition for kids is based on the same principles as nutrition for adults. Everyone needs the same types of nutrients — such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Parents especially Nigerian middle class to wealthy parents tend to feed their children with all the wrong foods in a bid to ‘display’ their wealth in their kids.
It is common nature for such kids to eat ice cream, snack on sugary snacks as a daily occurrence. The danger to this is that these kids will most like be sedentary as well because of the presence of several gadgets they can play with for hours in one spot.
In more developed countries, there’s an awareness of organic foods, gluten free and even vegetarian parents raising their kids as vegans as well.
Child Obesity and Lifestyle Diabetes is a fast growing scourge and following a few guidelines can combat that early in kids.
Consider these nutrient-dense foods as opposed to feeding kids with foods that only fill them up.
Choose seafood such as fish, when available, lean meat and poultry. Limit or avoid the deep fried and breaded versions that most fast food carry. Always choose the grilled or baked but not breaded option.
Eggs is always a great source but limit it to one a day or just egg whites where possible.
Encourage your child to eat a variety of fresh, canned, frozen or dried fruits — rather than fruit juice. ‘Fruit Juice’ to Nigerian parents is something of a luxury, but most packaged juice are processed and full of fruit concentrates than the real thing. If your child drinks juice, make sure it’s 100 percent juice without added sugars and limit his or her servings. Make your fruit juice at home when you can to be sure of the ingredients. Look out for canned fruit that says it’s light or packed in its own juice, meaning it’s low in added sugar. Keep in mind that one-quarter cup of dried fruit counts as one cup-equivalent of fruit. When consumed in excess, dried fruits such as raisins can contribute extra calories.
It’s hard to serve children vegetables so it’s best if started early of finding ways to incorporate them in their food. Aim to provide a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, beans and peas, starchy and others, each week. When selecting canned or frozen vegetables, look for options lower in sodium.
Choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa. Limit refined grains such as white bread, pasta and rice. This includes the burgers, meat pies, chicken pies and other pastries sold at fast foods as they are made with refined flour.
Dairy: Encourage your child to eat and drink fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages.
Aim to limit your child’s calories from:
Added sugar. Limit added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruit and milk, are not added sugars. Examples of added sugars include brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, honey and others.
Saturated and trans fats.
Limit saturated fats — fats that mainly come from animal sources of food, such as red meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Look for ways to replace saturated fats with vegetable and nut oils, which provide essential fatty acids and vitamin E. Healthier fats are also naturally present in olives, nuts, avocados and seafood. Limit trans fats by avoiding foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil.
Limit the amount of Rice and Noodles you serve your child and encourage them to eat more soup as most Nigerian soups are rich with vegetables and more nutritious. Their ‘swallow’ portions should also be controlled or you opt for healthier options like Amala, Wheat flour and Plantain flour. If you make all these at home, it’s an even better chance of your flour being less processed.