Added sugars are not recommended for children under two years of age, so you may be surprised to hear sugary food is a regular food choice for many children by age two.
What we eat as young children can play a role in determining the kind of food we choose to eat as adults.
One study has found food preferences in later life are influenced by the foods we eat as children, so what we feed our children is really important in the long-term.
Are Parents Making Poor Dietary Choices For Their Kids?
Children who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of being overweight as adults. Being overweight puts you at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, asthma, heart disease, certain types of cancers, strokes and hypertension.
Recently a shocking report surfaced of a three and a half year old being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as a result of bad diet. You can read more about it in How The Heck Does a 3.5 Year Old Get Type 2 Diabetes?
It is recommended young children are fed a diet high in vegetables, fruit, good fats and healthy protein. However, many young children are given sugary foods which often have little or no nutritious value.
One study tracked the foods eaten by over 400 babies from birth through to 20 months of age. Researchers found by 18 months old, many children were eating less of the core recommended foods and were instead opting for less healthy choices.
Researchers also discovered some of the discretionary food choices such as biscuits, chocolate and other sugary foods were being consumed by babies aged as young as six months. Children this young are unable to choose their own foods and it is up to their parents or caregivers to provide healthy options for mealtimes and snacks.
For some parents, lack of education surrounding healthy food choices may be to blame. Many parents reach for the sort of foods they enjoyed as children, without pausing to consider the ingredients. For other parents, it may be pester power driving the unhealthy food choices forwards.
Marketing at supermarkets, food packaging and television advertisements of unhealthy food choices are aimed towards children and, for some parents, this may be part of the problem.
The key to promoting a healthy diet is to continue to offer your child a healthy, balanced meal at each opportunity. Your child may like some foods more than others – and some may not get touched at all, but if you continue to offer meals made from healthy core ingredients, your child will usually accept new foods. Setting a good example of healthy eating is also important. What your children see you eat will set the tone for what they understand a healthy diet to be.
Don’t undervalue the importance of healthy eating right from the get go. Your child will enjoy the fruits of a healthy diet for years to come, so start as you mean to go on.
Stuck for inspiration? Check out BellyBelly’s list of healthy lunchbox ideas.