Nutrition in Young Children

I often write articles for NAFCC (The National Association for Family Child Care). Here is the article I wrote for this month’s featured standard (NAFCC requires their accredited providers to meet certain standards to be accredited with them).

4.73 The provider serves nutritious and sufficient food following Child and Adult Care Food Program guidelines. If parents bring food, the provider assures that it is nutritious or supplements it.

Young children’s stomachs are only about the size of their fists. This is why small but frequent feedings work best. Try to feed your toddler ever 3 or so hours. A child’s body uses nutrients from food to function properly throughout the day. Children that are fed a healthy diet can learn, grow, and play!

Some of the benefits of good nutrition in children are:

  • A healthy weight for their height
  • Mental well-being
  • Ability to concentrate
  • Strong bones and muscles
  • Good energy levels
  • The ability to fight off sickness and disease
  • Easier recovery from illness or injury
  • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, joint problems, breathing problems, and obesity

Remember that offering nutritious food is not enough. It is important to encourage learning about good nutrition so, that older children can learn to make good decisions on their own.

Tips for encouraging healthy learning:

  • Offer a variety of healthy foods so children don’t see healthy foods as boring foods.
  • Expect children to like new foods but, don’t be discouraged if they don’t. It takes multiple tries for children to adjust to the texture and taste of new foods.
  • Encourage children to eat slowly and enjoy their food.
  • Allow the children to determine how much they eat. Encourage them to listen to their bodies and when their bodies tell them they are full.
  • Avoid using food as a reward or a punishment.
  • Use real food labels in imaginary play areas. Encourage and teach older children to read labels.
  • Encourage children to safely help prepare health meals and snacks.

While children may spend a great deal of time in your care, parents have a huge impact on the health of their children. Encourage parents to continue offering healthy choices at home. Make sure to offer them a menu so they can plan their meals  and supplement the nutrients the child is already getting in your care. Offer parents a copy of the CACFP Meal Pattern. This offers a simplified checklist for busy parents to make sure they are providing all the food groups their child needs.

The above tips are not all inclusive.  After all, there are Many Right Ways! Find your own creative ways to encourage children to eat healthily and teach them about the importance of good nutrition.

For more helpful information conduct your own internet search or visit the sites listed below.

http://healthymeals.nal.usda.gov/cacfp-wellness-resources-child-care-providers

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/

http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/kids/eating-nutrition/healthy-eating/nutrition-healthy-eating-for-kids.html

Resources:

Chan, By Amanda. “10 Ways to Promote Kids’ Healthy Eating Habits.”LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 22 Sept. 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. <http://www.livescience.com/35876-kids-healthy-eating-tips.html>.

Editorial Staff. “Nutrition: Healthy Eating for Kids.” Nutrition: Healthy Eating for Kids. American Academy of Family Physicians, Mar. 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. <http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/kids/eating-nutrition/healthy-eating/nutrition-healthy-eating-for-kids.html>.

“Healthy Eating for Kids.” Healthy Eating for Kids. Memiah Limited, 2016. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. <http://www.nutritionist-resource.org.uk/content/healthy-eating-for-kids.html>.

Photo Credit: Bruce Tuten

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