The How and Why of Providing a Balanced Diet for your Child
Mr. Willow says “An inadequate diet during those important early years makes young children vulnerable to poor health and development. In many cases now poor diet results in obesity,with its related diseases.
We now know from recent research that poor diet influences a child's behaviour, their physical and mental development and their educational attainment”
In order to give a child the best start in life, and optimize their life chances, we need to meet the nutritional requirements of a child's rapidly growing and developing bodies.
“You are what you eat” is a well used quote but valid in so far as the body has definite needs for specific nutrients (as part of the “building blocks” for laying down tissues and vital organs like the brain and nervous system). These nutrients and micronutrients are vital for the body in order to optimize growth and development, maintain wellbeing, recover from illness and repair damaged. It is important therefore that you give your child foodstuffs that contain these specific nutrients…. and in approximately the right proportions!
Getting this “balance” right is referred to as “balancing” their diet, and we have the added knowledge and re-assurance that it will also set future healthy eating patterns. Getting the balance wrong will result in body weight or health problems for your child when they are young, and certainly other health issues as they grow older. It has been very sadly reported recently that some children’s diet is so poor that their parents are likely to outlive them!
Individual children’s needs may differ and this will be influenced largely by variables such as their energy expenditure and periods of growth but we must rely on our nutritional experts to advise best practice.
Mr. Willow’s healthy eating and suggestions are based upon the “eatwell plate” (as recommended by the Foods Standards Agency). It makes healthy eating easier to understand by giving a visual representation of the types, and proportions, of foods we are advised that we need for a healthy and well balanced diet. Please note that you don’t need to follow the plate exactly for each meal but try to get it right over time, such as over a whole day or a week.
After weaning* we should provide toddlers and young children regular portions of milk and dairy foods, fruit and vegetables, bread, rice, potatoes, pasta or other starchy foods. meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein and we should choose wholegrain varieties whenever possible. We should take care to give them only small amount of foods and drinks which are high in poor quality fat and/or sugar and to ensure that this is a “one off” rather than the daily “norm”.
*For information and guidance on weaning babies please refer to The Foods Standards Agency or see “Mr. Willow’s ABC of cooking for Babies and Children”