Child Nutrition: Why It’s So Important, & What Happens When It’s Missing
Child nutrition is doing what is right to develop a child’s body and mind. This includes not only eating a healthy, balanced diet, but also education and tips on healthy eating for kids.
Sadly, child nutrition is rarely talked about outside of a school health class. We want to reverse this trend and encourage everyone to start a conversation about nutrition with children and families.
Child Nutrition is Important
Children are at a time in their lives when they are constantly growing and learning. In order for children to grow properly, they must eat a well-balanced diet. A well-balanced diet incorporates all of the food groups represented in the food guide pyramid.
- Protein (from meat, poultry, beans, fish, eggs, and nuts) for sustained energy and development of muscles and organs.
- Carbohydrates (bread, cereals, rice, pasta) for quick energy, plus vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Milk/dairy products (including cheese and yogurt) for calcium, which helps keep bones and teeth healthy, and other important vitamins and minerals.
Fruits and Vegetables for a wide range of vitamins and minerals that help grow and repair tissue, as well as a good dose of fiber.
Malnutrition, Or What Happens When Nutrition is Lacking
When a person does not get the food they need on a regular basis, it can lead to malnutrition. People with malnutrition will lack the nutrients necessary for their bodies to grow and stay healthy. The effects can be even more pronounced for children, who need more nourishment to grow.
Kids who are malnourished:
- Are more likely to get sick, and stay sick for longer
- Don’t grow as tall as they should
- Are underweight
- Often report feeling sluggish or easily tired
- Tend to think about food constantly, and be easily distracted by food
- Get angry much more easily
- Often fall behind in school
Healthy Eating for Kids
To start combating the epidemic of childhood malnutrition from food insecurity in this country, everyone needs to pitch in and do their part.
Here are some easy suggestions:
Teach children about healthy food choices.
The more children hear the same message, the greater the chance it will stick. Start by teaching them good food habits.
If you provide snacks or meals for children, make them healthy.
There are plenty of healthy alternatives children love and can be easily swapped out for in their school lunches. Try out healthy snack recipes and get them involved!
Learn to read labels, and teach your kids to do so as well.
For example, many “low fat” snacks might still be unhealthy because they are filled with sugar and chemicals. Start learning what to look for.
Never use food as a reward or punishment.
Children who are deprived meals as punishment tend to overeat and/or have food anxiety. Likewise, rewarding children with food can too-easily send a bad message.
Look for other ways to fight food insecurity, together.
Today, you can start combating malnutrition by educating your friends and family about the importance of child nutrition. Every day, our team of volunteers and partners strive to make a positive impact on the food insecure families in our communities, but we need your help: