Human babies are unfinished when they appear in the world, and they require building materials to grow, function and develop. For bones, skin, organs and nerves to function well and develop properly. These materials are called nutrients, and are found in the food we provide for them to eat.
We are all a product of the food we eat, and the building of a child depends to a large degree on the nutrients supplied. As parents and carers we are wholly responsible for what babies and children put in their mouths, which is an incredibly powerful position. And it can go either way.
All of us need the same nutrients in our diet to live well and healthily, Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins, Vitamins and Minerals. But Children need different proportions and amounts of them at different stages of their growth and development.
There are two groups; Macronutrients, which are Proteins, Fats and Carbohydrates. And Micronutrients, which are vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients and water.
The key to a healthy diet is to eat a variety of nutritious foods from each of the food groups. Getting all the vitamins and minerals it needs to function well, grow and flourish.
Proteins are the building blocks used to repair, build and maintain our cells. Everything needs protein to work. They are made up of amino acids, 8 of which are essential, which means we have to get them from food as we can not synthesise them in our bodies.
They are involved in the making of muscles, nerves, organs and hormones.
Animal products like meat, fish, milk, cheese and eggs are rich sources of protein. Grains such as Quinoa and Amaranth are also complete proteins but most other whole grains and pulses only contain some of the amino acids needed, so must be combined together to provide the complete protein profile. Nuts and seeds also provide some protein.
Fat has been demonised for a while, and considered dangerous and responsible for obesity and heart disease. However, this thinking has been disproved by scientists and doctors, and many cultures who thrive eating fats.
High in energy and calories, fat is needed in higher proportions than for adults, as children are growing and expending energy faster. Their brains are growing and developing furiously, from birth to 3 yrs old particularly. Brains are made up of 96% Fat, so this is very necessary.
Dr Cowan, from San Francisco, believes that fat is the most important nutrient by far for children. Saturated animal fat and non animal fat, like coconut. They need these fats for the development of the nervous system, their immune systems and later on for healthy development of hormone and reproductive systems.
The brain and nervous systems are built and maintained from fat, especially the essential fatty acid, Omega-3s.
Saturated and unsaturated fats are the primary sources of the critical fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and minerals like calcium need Vit D to aid absorption.
Saturated fats fight infection, and build immune health, whilst also providing padding and protection for organs.
Saturated fats are essential for digestion and hormonal development.
Avoid Low Fat foods, or skimmed milks for children, they need the fats and they do not need the added extras that are usually put in instead of the fat, such as fillers, sugars and gums.
Omega-3 Fatty acids found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and eggs are essential. Research has found a strong relationship between eating this and children’s behaviour. These fatty acids positively influence the signals sent between the brain and the body. Studies have shown that including this in a child’s diet can stabilise mood swings, improve concentration and behaviour.
All animal meat, fish, eggs, milk, wholegrains, seeds, nuts, coconuts, pulses and sea vegetables. Avocado, nut and seed oils as well.
This is the fuel for our bodies. Broken down to its most basic form, glucose, it is what we need to burn to produce energy. Carbohydrates should always be whole and complex not refined.
Whole grains have fats, protein, fibre as well as vitamins and minerals, whereas most of these are lost when they are refined.
Refined white flour and sugar actually remove valuable nutrients from the body as they’re digested.