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Healthy Eating For Kids - Impossible?

Updated on September 19, 2014

Healthy Eating For Kids - Or The Result Is Malnutrition

What is healthy eating for kids? These days it is not a question asked very often if at all. The hectic life we live makes things worse. Often meals are make shift or take out because the parents do not have the time, or the energy, to consider what is healthy eating for kids. And sadly enough, very often healthy meals are simply too expensive and already stretched parents simply cannot pay!

The question I ask now is the problem of malnutrition. It is important to remember that the only reason for malnutrition is not lack of food. Kids do not have to be hungry to suffer from malnutrition. That is only too obvious if we look around and see all the overweight kids waddling along!

It is true that there are many kids that eat the wrong food because their parents simply cannot afford healthy food. These kids end up eating mainly starch and the occasional take out. Sad enough, most take out meals are way cheaper than a healthy well balanced meal. Still, a few small changes could probably help at least a little.

By digitalart, Stock Image - image ID: 10036904
By digitalart, Stock Image - image ID: 10036904 | Source

If kids are not eating healthy, what are they eating?

Well, I think this one has been discussed to death. Take out is unhealthy, but often it consists of a protein and a starch. Looking at it with an open mind we have to realize one thing, at least the do not suffer from protein malnutrition, but do not let it lull you into complacency, that still does not mean the child is not suffering from malnutrition.

On the matter of protein malnutrition I see that a lot here in South Africa. People eat mainly “pap” a stiff porridge made with maize meal. You see the children with their swollen bellies.

So, do not fool yourself, even though a kid gets some protein from junk food it still should not give you peace of mind, the child is still severely malnutritioned.

I think the message here is that fat kids very often suffer from malnutrition. Whether it is from financial problems, parents that do not have the necessary knowledge or indifferent parents. What surprised me lately is how many parents, even though they are privileged, know very little about nutrition. I even spoke to a woman with grown children that did not even know that nuts contain proteins. She has no idea whatsoever of nutrition. Asking her what is healthy food for a kids she said “o I know what is healthy, salads and bread is not food!”

This only goes to show you how easily malnutrition can happen. Fortunately, in South Africa, most people cook meals with veggies out of habit and that saves a lot of kids from malnutrition.

Kids Not Eating Healthy

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Healthy eating for kids is the only way to prevent the symptoms of malnutrition.

The seriousness of malnutrition in kids can not be over stressed and are probably too many to name in an article about healthy eating. Still I think I should name a few tell tales of malnutrition in privileged kids and the consequences.

One I am very familiar with is that the kids appear to be suffering from ADHD while they are actually all fired up on sugar. I know about kids that get up in the morning and help themselves to candy and chips for breakfast. Imagine what they are like at school! To make things worse lunch is the same and supper is take out.

We have to keep in mind that kids with mild malnutrition may not have any visible symptoms, but the long term effects can still be very serious. These kids can suffer from developmental delays, limited bone growth and if not that visible, fragile bone structure as the nutrients to form them simply is not in the diet. We can go on to brain development, psychological problems, learning disabilities, reduced social skills, compromised immune system, and so I can go on and on, but I think we all get the picture.

By Stoonn, Stock Photo - image ID: 100132179
By Stoonn, Stock Photo - image ID: 100132179 | Source

How to get your kids to eat vegetables

Food Groups

In spite of all the conversations about diet, low fat or high fat, protein based or starch, in the end for kids, it still boils down to the fact that they need to eat food from all the food groups for normal and healthy development.

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Whole Grain and Starchy Vegetable
  • Milk and Dairy
  • Protein

What is healthy eating for kids?

To get your children to eat healthy is not impossible. Even if we do not go into a lot of specifics, I will a little later on, it is actually very easy to get it right. Make sure your kids eats food from a wide variety and are not stuffed with candy, soda, take out etc.

If you make sure your kids eats whole grains, lots of fruit and vegetables, dairy products and meat you are pretty safe. If you are vegetarian or vegan you will really have to pay close attention to your kids protein intake as well as calcium. Vegetarians and especially vegans often do not eat enough proteins and food with enough calcium to supply a kid's needs.

Healthy Start for Toddlers - Getting the Balance Right | Aspen Nutritionals

By nirots, Stock Image - image ID: 100112073
By nirots, Stock Image - image ID: 100112073 | Source

Healthy eating for kids: toddlers and young ones

I am not going to give serving sizes and you can easily judge what is a “normal” serving (and remember, more fruit and veggies cannot do any harm!)

  • Fruit: 2 servings a day
  • Vegetables: 2 servings a day
  • Whole Grain: 4 servings
  • Milk and Dairy: 3 servings
  • Protein: 2 servings a day. (Encourage your child to try a variety of proteins, such as turkey, eggs, fish, chicken, lamb, baked beans, and lentils. Remember, eggs are no longer the enemy here! Include lots of eggs)

By Apolonia, Stock Photo - image ID: 100269189
By Apolonia, Stock Photo - image ID: 100269189 | Source

Healthy eating for kids of school age:

For older children the same as above with only added servings. Remember they have increased energy needs now. So, we are looking at 3-5 servings of veggies, 2-4 of fruit, 6-11 servings of whole grains (here it all depends on the kids activity level, sport etc.) 2-3 protein and 2-3 dairy.

From here on you can pretty much go by instinct keeping all the above in mind. And, of course, keep the enemy in mind: Foods high in fat and sugar, candy, soda, chips, fruit juice (even though it is healthy it has too much sugar, the whole fruit is better)

One last piece of advice (from a granny's experience!) be prepared and ready with healthy snacks. Always have a healthy snack at hand for a hungry child returning from school or sports.


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