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The Importance of Early Childhood Nutrition

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07 Jul 2022, 22:24 GMT+10

When it comes to a child's long-term health, early childhood nutrition is key. Whether it's encouraging healthy eating habits, feeding your children a variety of nutritious foods, or even simply educating your little ones about the importance of having a balanced diet, all of these factors help to stress the importance of early childhood nutrition.

Prioritizing early childhood nutrition can help to support your little one's growth and development so that they will be able to reach their full potential. Read on to learn more about the importance of early childhood nutrition from business leaders.

Growing a Strong Body

Mark Sider, CEO, Co-Founder Greater Than

One of the most important reasons why parents need to provide their children with healthy and nutritious foods is that this will help to strengthen their muscles and bones and help their little bodies to be strong and healthy. For example, Calcium is one of the most important minerals for children, as it is essential for growth, and helps to build strong bones and teeth. Try giving your little one milk, yogurt, or cheese, in order to ensure that they are receiving an adequate amount of calcium from their dairy intake. Protein is also key to growing a strong body, which is why you should introduce your children to eggs, avocados, bananas, beans, nut butters, and meat at an early age.

Nourishing Your Child's Brain

Christy Pyrz, Chief Marketing Officer Paradigm Peptides

Early childhood nutrition begins when your little one is in the womb. Pregnancy and infancy are some of the more important stages when it comes to nutrition, as this is when your baby is growing and developing. Childhood nutrition during this time is especially important for the formation of your baby's brain, as well as the development of their cognitive and motor skills. Children who are malnourished and are not receiving an adequate amount of protein in their diet, are more prone to developing physical or mental problems later on in life. In order to best protect your little one, it's important to fill their diet with high-quality foods, such as berries, broccoli, and fish that contain all of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that they need. This will nourish their brain and will have a positive effect on your child's learning ability, behavior, and overall productivity.

Developing Healthy Habits

Jorge Usatorres, VP Universal Diagnostic Laboratories

While early childhood nutrition has many direct effects on your child's body, it also positively impacts their ability to develop healthy habits that they can carry on throughout their life. Giving your children colorful plates of food at an early age will encourage them to continue this trend as they age. If you have a child between the ages of 2 and 5, think of new, nutritious foods to add to their diet that are colorful and full of health benefits. You can make a rainbow plate, featuring fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy. You can even think of fun ways to involve your little one in the cooking process or in your meal prep routine, by letting them mix ingredients together, place foods on the plate, and so forth. Once you are finished preparing the food, make sure that you sit down with your child while they eat, and talk about each of the delicious foods and their benefits. This way, you can turn a simple meal into a learning opportunity for your child. Health education is key when it comes to childhood nutrition, and taking the time to create these healthy habits for your little one will ultimately serve them well in the long run. They will also love thinking back and reminiscing on all of the fun mealtimes that they had growing up.

Preventing Picky Eaters

Hector Gutierrez, CEO JOI

In today's society, the number of children and even adults that are considered 'picky eaters' has gone up immensely. Research shows that children who are picky eaters when they are little, typically stay this way as adults, which can lead to detrimental outcomes including nutrient deficiencies. In order to prevent your child from becoming a picky eater, it is important to teach your child about the benefits of nutrition from a young age and to always be positive regarding trying new foods. To help with this, make sure that your family eats meals together. Having family meals helps to improve your child's social skills, builds stronger relationships, and also provides them with more opportunities to eat a wider variety of foods. During this time, make sure that you encourage healthy eating, and remember not to force your child to eat certain things. The key is avoiding negativity and staying positive about trying new foods together as a family.

Boosting Your Child's Immunity

Dr. Michael Green, Chief Medical Officer Winona

Providing your child with the right balance of nutrition has positive benefits on their physical, and emotional well-being. However, another component that is key to helping your child live a strong and healthy life is learning ways that you can help to boost their immunity through the foods that they eat. After going through the pandemic, many parents are looking for ways to help boost their child's immune system, so that they can help their little ones stay healthy and free from any illnesses that are going around. To help your child live a healthier life, try to avoid feeding them any unnecessary processed foods. Making a habit out of hand-washing will also help them to boost their immunity and get rid of any unwanted germs. Depending on your child's age, you can also ask your pediatrician about the possibility of your child taking a daily multivitamin, to help ensure that they are getting the correct dose of vitamins and minerals that their body needs.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Jae Pak, Founder Jae Pak MD Medical

Teaching your child about nutrition and healthy eating at an early age will help them to better maintain a healthy weight over the course of their life. Adolescents and young people with obesity typically begin to see their weight increase during their primary school years. In order to help combat unhealthy weight gain, instead of offering your little one an array of sugary drinks and fattening foods, try to provide them with healthier alternatives such as sliced fruit and colorful veggies. To help your child maintain a healthy weight, you can also encourage them to spend time participating in physical activities, and ensure that they are getting the right amount of sleep.

Creating a Positive Relationship with Food at an Early Age

Mandy dos Santos, Founder Little People Nutrition

Fussy eating can be incredibly stressful for many families and children. And many families can get into the trap of the 'nugget cycle'. Processed foods can also have artificial ingredients which aren't beneficial to children's development and health. In particular artificial colors. If we can develop a child's preference for more whole foods in the natural state, they will then grow up with the advantage of choosing these foods which are more nutrient-dense. Nutrition in the early years is about, of course, the child's health, food intake, and nutrition, but it is also about setting a positive relationship with food and how that child will perceive eating and mealtimes as they grow older. That is why I created a menu plan with recipes but also incorporated food education activities and some guidance around serving food. Exposure is key and it takes time and patience for trial and acceptance by children. Add more vegetables into the meals, even if the children do not eat them at the beginning. Provide meals cooked from whole foods, with minimal sugar and salt added. Our role as educators and parents is to have a variety of nutritious foods on the table. That might be rice, a meat dish, a vegetable dish, and perhaps even some fruit. A child then decides what and how much they would like to eat. If they eat half a cup of meat and two tablespoons of pasta, that's ok. If they eat fruit and rice, that is okay too. If children learn to love and respect food when they are young, the relationship and habits they will develop with food will blossom as they grow.

How Childhood Nutrition Can Impact Early Brain Development

Dr. Teresa Purzner, Founder Cerebelly

As a neurosurgeon and developmental neurobiologist, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the brain and, in particular, early brain development. When I had my own kids, I had a strong appreciation for how critical and unique those early years are for your long-term cognitive potential, so I wanted to make sure they were given all the building blocks they needed. One important variable is nutrition. I wanted to make sure my kids were getting the right nutrients at the right time to ensure their early brain development was well supported. There were 19 nutrients that I was focused on and the first thing I did was make my way to the grocery store to find baby food pouches that would provide those nutrients. I became that mom that woke up at 5 am to steam vegetables, grind up sunflower seeds, and mix pureed sweet potatoes and blueberries with whole fat yogurt. In this way, I had solved the problem for my own children, but I couldn't ignore the fact that this same problem still existed for every other child. There was a clear gap between what I knew children should be eating and what was available to parents at the supermarket. We had to start with babies and children under three because it's such a unique and critically important period of brain development, but nutrition remains important for toddlers and kids of all ages. Long term, nutrition plays a role in key moments.

The importance of early childhood nutrition begins with the parents, as they are the ones guiding their children in the right direction when it comes to healthy eating and trying new foods. To help with this, remember to eat meals together as a family, and to use mealtime as a chance to bond with your child, taste new foods together, and talk about the wonderful nutritional benefits that your body receives from all of the colorful foods on your child's plate. Involving your child in mealtime will help to teach them about the importance of nutrition, and will lead them on their way to becoming healthy adults.

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