Children can be picky eaters. For many parents, picturing a toddler stubbornly throwing a piece of vegetable to the floor in disgust is easy, after all it’s an all too familiar scene. It might be tiring but it’s important that you find ways to convince your child to eat that piece of vegetable as studies show that having a balanced and nutritious diet directly impacts all aspects of a child’s growth and development.
Why is Nutrition so Important for Children?
The relationship between nutrition, health and learning is very strong as nutrition is one of the three major factors that impact a child’s development. As we all know genes and environment are the other two factors, eating a certain food cannot guarantee that your child will be smarter. Nevertheless, research studies show that nutrition in a child’s early years is linked to their health and academic performance in later years of their life.
Nutrition and Health
However we might personally define that a child’s early years begin before birth when it comes to nutrition. Under-nutrition during pregnancy stunts foetal growth and can lead to poor brain development that result in irreversible chronic illnesses. Under-nutrition of a breastfeeding mother will likewise negatively impact a child’s development, especially in the first 6 months when breast milk is all he/she is consuming. For all soon-to-be and new mothers, it’s worth making sure you’re consuming a healthy and balanced diet full of the vital nutrients that both you and your child need: carbohydrates, protein, calcium, iron and vitamins A, C and D.
Is it really that important for children to consume all of the above nutrients though?
The answer is yes and the benefits of good nutrition to health are endless, Firstly, new mothers following nutritious diet leads to fewer and less severe cases among their children of illnesses including diarrhoea, ear infection and bacterial meningitis and because better-nourished children have an enhanced natural ability to fight infection.
Secondly, Iron is a vital component of brain tissue, iron deficiency makes nerve impulses move slower and may cause permanent damage to a child’s brain, especially in the first two years of his/her life, iron deficiency during this time is linked to behaviour changes and delayed psychomotor development. However, too much iron also presents problems. As someone wisely said that the Key is to find the middle way always!
Thirdly, under-nutrition has been proven to decrease a child’s activity levels, social interactions, curiosity and cognitive functioning. Although as parents everywhere probably should harbour the wish that their child wasn’t quite so hyperactively jumping on their bed at 6am, good nutrition remains a must.