The Nutritional quality of our diet affects our wellbeing throughout our lives, but it has an even greater impact on children whose bodies and minds are still growing and developing.
Nutrition dictates more than a person’s body weight. The nutrition a child receives during the first few years of life can affect their health for years to come. Balanced nutrition is important to child development because children need specific nutrients to thrive and grow. Poor nutrition can result from lack of food as well as overeating, since nutrition is about more than simple caloric intake. Proper child development relies on a solid nutritional foundation, which includes the correct amount of each nutrient.
Proper nutrition affects the following aspects of a child’s development:
- Cognitive development: which is a term that covers human perception, thinking and learning.
- Motor development: which refers to changes in children’s ability to control their body’s movements.
- Physical growth: without proper nutrition children are usually smaller. Also poor nutrition in the form of overeating can result in weight issues later in a child’s life.
- Emotional and behavioural Development: nutritional imbalance often leads to negative emotional and behavioural issues; children are withdrawn, less active, and less helpful.
- Learning ability: proper nutrition keeps children energized and focused. Diets that are high in saturated fats actually impair learning and memory.
Good nutrition in the early years is vital, not only does it support healthy growth and development but it also plays an important role in shaping their eating habits as they get older.
As parents and child care Providers you should recognise the importance of giving children a nutritionally balanced diet – and that you are in a position to make a difference in their quality of life.
The health and wellness of the children in our care is just as important to us as it is to parents. Wee Watch Providers are given resources to help them make nutritious choices when it comes to preparing meals and snacks for the little ones in their care, Canada’s Food Guide, sample menu plans, blank menu planning sheets, and information regarding food safety.
As children get older it may be challenging to persuade them to have veggies instead of french fries but you can help steer them towards healthier choices and also lead by example, by eating healthier options yourself.