Good nutrition is vital in early childhood development. Children require a delicate balance of foods at the right time to develop and reach their full potential. Intuitive eaters that listen to their bodies naturally tend to seek out these foods but seeing as ‘Honour your health with Gentle Nutrition’ is a principle of intuitive eating, we thought this article might help to get into the nitty-gritty of what that means.
Good nutrition starts as early as pregnancy and continues well into the adolescent years. In fact, instilling good eating habits and a good relationship with food from early childhood will lead to healthy eating habits and a good relationship in adulthood. Here’s how good nutrition plays a big part in early childhood development.
What does good nutrition mean?
Good nutrition means eating a healthy and balanced diet. A diet that is nutrient-dense, rich in vitamins and minerals and low in calories. Typically, a balanced diet should include proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Children require a healthy balanced diet containing foods from each food group so they can get a wide range of nutrients to keep them healthy. Children’s appetites vary depending on age, growth spurts and how much activity they have done, so it is important to provide appropriately sized portions and allow them to listen to their bodies.
Good nutrition in pregnancy and breastfeeding
Good nutrition starts as early as pregnancy. As soon as a mother conceives, the rapidly developing embryo uses the mother’s nutrients to support its growth. If there are not adequate stores of nutrients, this can affect fetal growth and organ development. Eating healthy and nutritious foods during pregnancy and breastfeeding can assist in good brain development for your baby. It can also contribute to a healthy birth weight and reduce the risk of many birth defects.
A healthy diet during breastfeeding not only helps the mother’s physical health. It also supports the production of breastmilk, which is vital for your baby’s development, especially during the first six months of your child’s life.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends mothers worldwide to exclusively breastfeed infants for the child’s first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, they should be given nutritious complementary foods and continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond.
Benefits of good nutrition for young children
Nutrient-dense foods, such as fish, broccoli and berries are just a few foods shown to improve cognitive functions and memory. Healthy eating habits also lead to healthy skin, teeth, and eyes. It supports muscle growth, maintains a healthy weight, strengthens the bones, boosts immunity, and helps the digestive system function.
Good nutrition also has an effect on how children feel. Serotonin, the chemical which helps regulate sleep, appetite and moods is mostly produced in the gut. This means the digestive system can affect emotions. A healthy gut not only makes your child’s immune system stronger, it also plays a big role in regulating your child’s moods.
Introducing healthy eating habits
If you’re concerned that your child is not getting the nutrition that they require, don’t worry it’s never too late to make lifestyle changes. Some children tend to be picky eaters but these few tips might help to make it easier:
- Offer a mix of your child’s favourites and some new foods. Gently encourage your child to try the new foods but don’t force them.
- Keep in mind that everyone has foods that they do and do not like.
- Make healthy snacks available to your child to fill in the nutrient gaps throughout the day.
- Keep encouraging them and reinforcing the idea that healthy foods are optimal for their well-being.
- Most importantly, make sure you are setting a good example. By eating a well-rounded diet and listening to your body, chances are your child will want to do the same.
Good nutrition has many benefits for early childhood development. Mindful and intuitive eating, and improving one’s relationship with food is important for the growth of young children. If you would like more tips or to learn more on how you can improve your child’s diet, we offer nutritional consultations. Book a consultation with us today.