The Importance of Good Nutrition in Early Childhood
Affinity Health, leading providers of high-quality healthcare, explain the importance of developing healthy eating habits for kids.
Why is Nutrition Important for Early Childhood Education And Development?
In a world filled with unhealthy food options made just for kids, it can be difficult to ensure your child receives the proper nutrition.
You are what you eat is a mantra that rings especially true for children, who are growing at a phenomenal rate.
The physical benefits of proper nutrition are endless, including giving children the energy to live life to the fullest, preventing malnutrition, maintaining the immune system, preventing obesity, and lowering the risk of chronic disease.
“Children are highly impressionable during their early growth and begin to acquire eating habits that they will take into adulthood,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.
“An overweight or obese child is five times more likely to become an overweight or obese adult than a child with a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI).”
Worldwide, childhood obesity is growing at an alarming rate – accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic – with diets high in sugary, processed, and high-fat foods often to blame.
Obesity can cause a variety of health problems in children that can last a lifetime, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, raised cholesterol, certain cancers, digestive disorders, and osteoporosis. This degenerative bone disease results in porous, weak, and brittle bones.
Overweight children also tend to have fatigue and irritability that can lead to depression, and feel emotionally isolated from their peers, leading to low self-esteem.
Healthy Food For A Healthy Brain
Everything from learning to memory and attentiveness is affected by the foods we consume. Young children, whose brains are rapidly developing, need a nutrient-dense diet to help them as they process the world around them. Without the right nutrients, toddlers and pre-schoolers might struggle to develop the skills to maintain concentration, which becomes increasingly important as they get older.
Healthy Food Equals Happy Children
Did you know that nutrition has a direct effect on how children feel? Research shows the brain networks associated with controlling feeding are linked closely to emotion. Serotonin (which helps regulate sleep, appetite, and moods) is primarily produced in the gut, meaning the digestive system also guides emotions.
A Healthy Diet Combined With Physical Activity
Ensuring that your child is physically active goes hand-in-hand with ensuring they eat the right foods. On most days of the week, children should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to strenuous physical activity.
Parents can encourage their children to be more physically active by limiting their time spent watching television and playing video games and encouraging more physically active habits such as walking, running, and playing ball.
It’s important for parents to lead by example. If we actively participate in our children’s lives when it comes to nutrition and exercise, we model a positive, healthy, and long-term lifestyle for our children.
Important Nutrients For Children
All children should be eating a diet that includes the five main food groups – grains, dairy, protein, vegetables, and fruit.
Essential nutrients for children include:
- Calcium to strengthen bones (found in milk, yoghurt, and seeds).
- Protein to build muscles (found in eggs, lean meats, and cheese).
- Carbohydrates to provide energy (found in whole grain bread, potatoes and apples).
- Iron for healthy blood (found in legumes, lamb, spinach, and quinoa).
- Essential fats to help the body absorb other vitamins (found in fish, avocados, and nuts).
5 Healthy And Child-Friendly Food Habits
Here are five healthy food habits you can teach your children from a young age:
- Choose healthy snacks: A piece of fruit or handful of nuts is more nutritious than a bowl of crisps or a bag of sweets.
- Eat the rainbow: Create colourful plates with a variety of vegetables.
- Making healthy food is fun:Involve little ones in cooking wholesome meals.
- Nothing beats a glass of water: Limit sugary drinks, including fruit juices, and encourage your child to drink enough water during the day.
- Don’t eat for comfort:Avoid using food as a reward, as it can teach your child to rely on it for comfort.
Affinity Junior: Children’s Medical Insurance
Affinity Health offers parents an affordable plan specifically tailored for children. Affinity Junior provides affordable healthcare for your children. The unique feature of the Affinity Junior plan is that the policy insures only your children.
With Affinity Junior, you can get Day-to-Day and Hospital cover for your children, as well as services tailored to the nutritional wellbeing of your child, including The Diabetes Management Programme, primary healthcare screenings to ensure that your child is growing healthy and strong, and access to our nationwide network of medical professionals including registered dietitians.
Affinity Junior also offers unlimited telephonic consultations with an Affinity Health Nurse Practitioner. They can assist young members and their families with a healthy method to cope with dietary restrictions and debilitations.
For more information on Affinity Junior, click here.
About Affinity Health
Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance, offering you a range of options at affordable rates including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.