Once you bring your first child home from the hospital, the number of things you suddenly need to think about, worry about and plan for can seem insurmountable.
As soon as your little bundle of joy emits their first piercing cry of hunger, however, your priorities are put into focus. You can postpone worrying about paying for college; right now they just want to eat!
But what and how you choose to feed your child in the first five years of their life can have an impact on their long-term health and development.
Building a nutritional foundation
“The first five years are especially critical, because during this time in life is when the brain develops most rapidly and has the highest capacity for change,” said Holiday Zanetti, a senior research scientist and clinical investigator for Nutrilite.
“These years are paving the foundation for a lifetime of health and wellbeing.”
That’s why, in the first five years, parents should focus on ensuring their children get adequate nutrition to support and promote normal growth and development, Holiday said.
“The focus should be placed on selecting appropriate foods and amounts, while creating a supportive food environment that enables the child to self-regulate their food intake,” she said. “This means children should begin learning hunger and satiety ques, that special physiological connection between the tummy and brain.”
As babies grow into toddlers and then preschoolers, here are five tips Holiday offers parents to guide their nutrition along the way:
1. Portion sizes
Children are not adults, so let them choose their portions with oversight. Help them focus on identifying signs that they are full so they can learn self-regulation.
“Let children dictate when they are finished eating,” Holiday said. “This may mean they don’t clean their plate, and that is okay! When children know they are full they are less likely to overeat.”
2. Picky eaters
Food preferences start early in life, so new foods should be introduced early and often. They may not bite the first time, but the second or third might find them asking for more.
3. Offer a variety
Offer a variety of healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables from across the color spectrum to ensure they get their phytonutrients. “A variety ensures children are getting the key vitamins and minerals for healthy growth and development,” Holiday said.
If you’re worried they’re not getting what they need because their preferences are limited, consider children’s dietary supplements to fill any nutritional gaps. There are several options for children who are old enough to chew and swallow safely.
4. Limit processed foods, fast foods
Processed foods and fast foods are often lacking in good nutrition and they promote bad eating habits, Holiday said.
5. Limit sugary drinks
Sodas, juice drinks, lemonade, sweet tea, sports drinks – they can all lead to tooth decay and unhealthy weight gain, Holiday said.
“Milk and water are the best drink choices, and whole fruits over sugary fruit juices are preferred,” she said. “Even 100 percent fruit juice still has concentrated sugar and doesn’t contain fiber.”
Holiday offered more nutrition advice for children as they grow into adulthood. You can read that in “Nutrition for your child through ages and stages.” And to learn more about Nutrilite™ supplements for children, visit Amway.com.
Fighting global childhood malnutrition
While most parents have the ability to pick and choose what their growing child consumes in those first five years, in parts of some countries families have limited access to proper nutrition. Nutrilite is passionate about making sure all children have access to the nutrition their bodies need.
That’s one reason Nutrilite researchers at Amway developed Nutrilite™ Little Bits™, a micronutrient supplement for malnourished children age 6 months to 5 years old. When taken daily with food, the 15 essential vitamins and nutrients can help ensure children get the nutrients they need for their brains and bodies to develop properly.
Through the Nutrilite™ Power of 5 Campaign, Nutrilite™ Little Bits™ has become a daily part of the diet for tens of thousands of children in 15 countries where access to access to proper nutrition is limited. Their families also receive education, food provisions and follow-up assessments – all at no cost.
Want to help the cause? It only takes $10 to provide Nutrilite™ Little Bits™ to a child for a whole month. Visit Amway.com to make your donation today.