Alphabetic Guide to Child Care - Nutrition


Children's nutritional requirements are not the same as adults. Although that may seem like an obvious statement, the fact is many parents do not take it into account when planning meals.

Infants are incapable of digesting many products. Introduction of new food to an infant should be done one item at a time. If the baby has an allergic reaction, the parent then knows what it is in response to. If the baby has eaten two or three new items, it isn't possible to tell without another feeding which one the child is allergic to.

Children can outgrow some intolerances to food. A baby that could not properly digest citrus fruit may be able to handle it well a few months or years later. Some allergies, though, get worse with each exposure. Common food allergies and intolerances include nuts, berries, milk, eggs, and fish.

Children do not require the same quantity of food as an adult. Small children will eat less at a meal, but may need to eat more frequently during the day. Their stomach holds less so they get hungry more frequently.

Children also do not require the same quantity of minerals and vitamins as adults. Childrens’ vitamins are available but should not be used to replace a healthy diet. Good eating habits in children establishes a pattern that they are likely to follow for the rest of their lives. Also, children should not become adapted to the idea of taking a pill every day.

Several studies show that children who are obese can diet effectively and that they are more likely to keep the weight off than adults are. Overweight children who diet for a period even as short as 10 weeks are less obese than overweight children who never diet at all. One study demonstrated that dieting in childhood does not completely prevent obesity but it does limit the amount of weight gain to less than half that gained by those who never dieted as children.

Weight is an extremely sensitive subject to children. Adolescents in particular are susceptible to negative self-images based on weight, and to criticism by others. Disorders related to eating are covered in The Teens under Anorexia and Bulimia.

Weight gain can commonly be traced to the amount of television a child watches. Obesity and television viewing are related through two habits. The first is that for every hour the child is plopped in front of a television is an hour the child is not playing and exercising. The other is that television watching is usually accompanied by snacking on high-fat, high-salt or sugar pre-processed food.

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