Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A-Z for your child's nutrition

A for Artificial Additives

Read the labels. If they include words such as hydrogenated or trans fats, or colour additives with numbers (such as blue #1, yellow #5), you might want to reconsider the purchase. Studies have shown artificial additives can increase hyperactivity and lower attention spans in children.

B for Breastfeeding

Breastmilk has a balanced mix of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, is gut-friendly, and contains heart-healthy fats and immunity boosters.

C for Colour

As a general guide, the deeper the hue, the better it is for you. A prime example is, blueberries, which have powerful antioxidants that keep growing brains healthy. Involve kids by asking them to identify as many colours as they can in their food.

D for Discovery

Let kids learn where food comes from and how it is made or grown. An excursion to a farm can be very enriching. Explain why you have chosen particular foods over others at the supermarket.

E for Egg

It's a "protein-rich wonderfood in a shell", describes Natalie Savona, author of Wonderfoods For Kids. The dense protein provides the necessary building blocks for growth and development. It also has Vitamin K, which helps blood clotting and bone formation.

F for Fish

Fish such as salmon, halibut and cod contain omega-3 fatty acids which help maintain brain and cardiovascular health. Omega-3 fatty acid is also said to improve behaviour in children. Purdue University researchers found that boys with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder had lower levels of omega-3 fats, especially DHA, which is mainly found in fish.

G for Graze

Apart from main meals, let your child nibble on nutritious snacks throughout the day. Grazing regulates their blood sugar as they get a steady supply of energy from frequent small meals.

H for Hummus

This Middle Eastern dish, which is low in fat and high in fibre, has Vitamins B1 and B6, folate, iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, maganese and selenium. Make your own chickpea and tahini (a sesame seed paste) dip and serve with pita bread. Add diced cucumbers or celery for a healthy crunch.

I for Immunity

Your immune system protects you from infection and allergens, if you feed it right. Antioxidants and proteins aside, introduce kids to spices. Ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and chilli add flavour and are said to help fight infection.

J for Junk the junk!

Junk food is one of the key culprits of obesity in children. More worryingly, too much of it can lead to less stable DNA and faulty cell reproduction. Your child may be more vulnerable to serious illnesses in later childhood and adulthood.

K for Kiwi

Weight for weight, this fuzzy-skinned fruit packs more Vitamin C than an orange. It also has antioxidant phytonutrients such as flavonoids and carotenoids which protect against free radicals.

L for Lentils

Lentils are a good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. This tiny nutritional giant also boasts six important minerals, two B-vitamins and protein.

M for Milk

In addition to yielding vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that keep children healthy, milk is important for building and maintaining strong bones. The Academy of Pediatrics advises low-fat milk for children older than two years. Toddlers under two years should be breastfed, or drink whole or formula milk.

N for Nuts

They're nutrient-dense - full of healthy fats, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Pack a homemade trail mix of nuts and dried fruit for the older ones to take to school. Younger ones can enjoy almond or cashew butter, or even tahini, spread thinly on toast. But if your family has a history of nut allergy, wait till your child is at least two years old before giving him peanut butter.

O for Organic

While there is no concrete evidence to prove organic food is healthier than its non-organic peers, it is grown and processed without artificial fertilisers and pesticides.

P for Phytonutrients.

Phytos, for short, are immune-boosting substances found only in fruits and vegetables. They prevent wear and tear on organs and help the body to repair itself. They also give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colours which kids are naturally attracted to. So, let your child choose his own phytos by asking him to select a rainbow to eat.

Q for Quinoa

Pronounced "keen-wah", it is a collective term for the grain-like seeds of the leafy plant. Quinoa is rich in gluten-free protein and packed with B vitamins, iron, magnesium and manganese. You can prepare it the same way you cook rice, in a rice cooker. An article by Karen Railey, author of How To Improve Fading Memory And Thinking Skills With Nutrition, states that quinoa is 12 to 18 per cent protein.

R for Raisins

Health, or junk, food? The jury's not out yet but these shrivelled grapes are low in fat and cholesterol, and are a good source of fibre, iron and potassium. Recently, raisins were found to contain phytochemicals which inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth.

S for Spinach

Popeye loves it for a reason. A dose of spinach offers fibre, Vitamins C and E, calcium, folate, as well as the antioxidant lutein, which boosts retinal health. It is also high in iron, which aids growth and muscle development. Spinach is easily disguised for kids: Blend baby spinach, celery, carrots and tomatoes into a homemade pasta sauce.

T for Tryptophan

This amino acid can be converted to serotonin (the "happy hormone"), which is linked to good moods and sleep. Tryptophan is found in chicken, turkey, red meat, tuna, shellfish, dairy products, nuts, seeds, bananas, soybeans and soy products.

U for Unsaturated Fat

Most unsaturated fats come from plant and fish sources. These fats are a good source of essential fatty acids and help kids' bodies grow and develop. The best unsaturated fats are found in olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, albacore tuna, and salmon.

V for Vitamins

They're good for the body but children, especially finicky eaters, may not always get the vitamins from the foods they eat. Many parents give their children a daily multivitamin as an added nutritional precaution.

W for Water

If your child isn't taking to water, try packaging it with an attractive cup, decorative straw, maybe an ice cube, or even a lemon twist. Keeping a child well-hydrated improves their appetite.

X for eXposure

Expose your kids to a variety of foods. Fussy eaters may suddenly develop appetites for different foods and eat more. My toddler, for instance, prefers couscous to rice because the smaller grains are easier for him to chew and swallow.

Y for Yoghurt

High in protein and calcium, easier to digest than milk, yoghurt has live bacterial cultures that keep intestines healthy, aid digestion, and offer a boost to the immune system. Buy low-, or non-fat variants. You can also blend it into smoothies, make dips from it, or stir it into soups and sauces.

Z for getting proper Zzz's

What kids eat can affect how they sleep. In her book The Good Sleep Guide For Kids, author Sammy Margo suggests Tryptophan-rich foods such as bananas, cheddar cheese, cabbage, spinach, oats, wheat, eggs and soya products to help kids sleep better.

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