In North America, March represents National Nutrition Month. The team at Sidra thought this would be a good opportunity to bust some childhood nutrition myths for parents of young children.
It goes without saying that keeping your child healthy is a main priority for parents. Nutrition is important for childhood growth and development. However, with so much nutrition information available, it can sometimes be difficult to know what advice to take. To help wade through all the information and set parents on the right track, Sidra has collated and corrected some key myths below.
Myth #1: Multivitamins cover my child’s nutritional needs
The contents of a multivitamin represent only a small segment of the important nutritional compounds found in foods. Multivitamins should only be taken to supplement a balanced diet, if advised by a pediatrician or dietician, and never as an alternative.
Myth #2: Any type of sugar is bad for my child
Sugar is found naturally is some foods, like fruit. These sugars are recommended in small amounts as part of your child’s balanced diet. Added sugar, sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared, such as biscuits, cakes and sweets can be damaging to your child’s health. Added sugars are empty calories – this puts your child at greater risk of childhood obesity and longer term health problems such as type 2 diabetes. To eat a balanced diet, your child should eat food with added sugar only occasionally, and instead the majority of their daily calorie intake should come from other types of foods such as starchy foods and fruits and vegetables.
Myth #3: Non-fat food will prevent my child from becoming overweight
Having some fat is an important part of every diet. As well as helping your child feel fuller after meals, it’s also a source of energy and helps the body absorb certain vitamins (such as vitamins A and D). However, there are three kinds of fat found in food – trans fat or hydrogenated fat, saturated and unsaturated. Saturated and unsaturated fat is found naturally in food, while trans fat is mostly found only in processed foods such as cakes, cookies and deep fried foods. Moderation is key to a healthy diet so it is ok to allow between 25-30% of your child’s daily caloric intake to come from fats (7% of which could come from saturated fat). However, trans fat are mostly created by industrial processes during food production. It is considered by many to be the worst type of fat and should be avoided.
Myth #4: Children need milk to develop strong bones
Milk is a great source of calcium, but if your child is lactose intolerant or dairy isn’t part of your family’s diet, there are alternatives that can also provide the calcium needed for the development of strong and healthy bones. Tofu, soya milk and calcium- fortified cereals are alternatives for lactose intolerant diets, as are certain vegetables like broccoli, spinach and kale.
Myth #5: Fresh fruit juice is full of vitamins and healthier than water
It is true that fresh fruit juice contains more nutrients than fizzy drinks, but children should only consume fruit juice in moderation. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children aged 1-5 years can drink 120-175 milliliters per day. The high sugar content found in fruit juices can cause tooth decay or possibly an upset stomach. Instead, try offering your child water or milk to quench their thirst.