Nutrition plays a critical role in a child’s cognitive and physical development. These developmental phases are highly susceptible to nutritional deficiencies in children (Hurley et al., 2016). Research indicates that substandard dietary choices in children below five years can lead to lifelong health disparities among this populace (Hurley et al., 2016). Healthy nutrition, on the other hand, has been positively correlated with the development of a child’s motor, cognitive-language, and social-emotional abilities (Hurley et al., 2016). Therefore, families should ensure that the food given to their children contains the required nutrients and is in recommended amounts.
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Excessive Consumption of Sugar in Children
The nutritional density of foods consumed by children can directly affect their health. Added sugars can contribute to one’s calorie intake, which consequently exposes him or her to increased risk for obesity, cardiovascular diseases, dental caries, hypertension, and obesity-related cancers, over time (Vos et al., 2017). Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) have been linked with a significantly high BMI, increased fat accumulation, and increased adiposity in children between the age of two and nineteen. Infants (<12 months) who devour SSB and other added sugars are likely to become obese at six years of age (Vos et al., 2017). The risk of developing these conditions is compounded by the number of sugary foods the child consumes.
Alternatives for Unhealthy Food Choices
Parents can opt for natural and non-caloric or non-nutritive artificial sweeteners to replace added and artificial additives in children’s diets. Natural sugars are present in fruit juices, syrups, honey, fresh milk products, and fruits instead of added sugars and processed foods. Children’s sugar consumption should be limited to 6% to 10% of their total calorie intake. Added sugars or sweeteners are not recommended for children below two years of age (Vos et al., 2017). Fresh groceries, processed foods (in small amounts), meals with little or no sugar, salt, and fat are the most ideal for toddlers (Riley et al., 2018). Micronutrient supplements and multivitamins are unnecessary for kids with normal growth and balanced diets. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, lean proteins, and whole grains.
The Impact of Food on One’s Concentration at School
Foods supply the brain with the energy that is needed for optimal functioning. The human brain requires a daily amount of at least 520 calories to operate/work properly. At least 45-65% of the calories used in the brain are derived from carbohydrates, 20-25% from fat, and 12-30% from proteins. Energy deficits or excesses in these nutrients or the elimination of any of these food groups from one’s diet can lead to energy deficiencies in the brain, which consequently affects concentration. Healthy meals can improve a child’s reading performance in school. On the other hand, skipping breakfast has been associated with low concentration levels in children and young adults (Solomon et al., 2016). Nutrient deficiencies and surfeits can slow down the activity of the brain, which affects concentration.
Interventions for Picky-Eating Children
A child’s eating practices and preferences are established during toddlerhood. A kid can learn what and how much to eat based on their childhood experiences with food. Parents should avoid force-feeding their offspring, punishing their young ones with food, offering food to soothe or get a child to sleep, and frequent snacking because these practices can lead to unhealthy eating habits. Rather, they should adopt the “eat what I provide” approach, but at the same time allow the children to choose the quantity of the foods they have given (Riley et al., 2018). Providing infants and adolescents with constant healthy food choices and reinforcing basic feeding principles will help guardians manage picky eaters.
Hurley, K. M., Yousafzai, A. K., & Lopez-Bóo, F. (2016). Early child development and nutrition: A review of the benefits and challenges of implementing integrated interventions. Advances in Nutrition, 7(2), 357–363. Web.
Riley, L. K., Rupert, J., & Boucher, O. (2018). Nutrition in toddlers. American Family Physician, 98(4), 227–233.
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Solomon, A., Mbat, E., Medavarapu, S., Faleti, O., & Otohinoyi, D. (2016). Feeding habits and its impact on concentration and attentiveness among medical students in Dominica. Archives of Medicine, 8(5), 9. Web.
Vos, M. B., Kaar, J. L., Welsh, J. A., Van Horn, L. V., Feig, D. I., Anderson, C. A. M., Patel, M. J., Cruz Munos, J., Krebs, N. F., Xanthakos, S. A., & Johnson, R. K. (2017). Added sugars and cardiovascular disease risk in children: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 135(19), 1017–1034. Web.