The best diet for children – how do we promote proper nutrition from an early age?
How do we choose the best diet for children?
In Romania, approximately 30% of children under the age of 14 are overweight. Among them, over 15% are obese. These alarming figures show there’s an urgent need to promote a healthy lifestyle for children.
The good news is – the Mediterranean diet may be the answer!
Why is the Mediterranean diet the best diet for children?
The numbers on childhood obesity in Romania are worrying, and will continue to increase if we bring no change in our children’s lifestyle.
If you are a parent looking for the healthiest and most effective ways to teach your children about the importance of nutrition and healthy choices, the Mediterranean diet can help. Although it is called a “diet,” this diet is more of a lifestyle, meant to bring great benefits to the heart and body.
Here’s why the Mediterranean diet is considered the best diet for kids:
The Mediterranean diet promotes lifelong eating habits
The period of early childhood is essential for the development of eating habits. Children exposed to nutritious foods are more likely to make healthy choices throughout their lives. The Mediterranean diet is the ideal choice for this period of habit formation.
An important thing in the Mediterranean diet is the fact that it does not emphasize losing weight or restricting calories, which could affect children’s relationship with food long term. Instead, the diet emphasizes the importance of body and heart health, and including fresh foods rich in essential nutrients in daily life.
Through a varied diet like the one promoted by the Mediterranean diet, children appreciate the natural tastes of ingredients and learn to enjoy food in a healthy way.
The Mediterranean diet covers all nutritional needs
As they grow, children need a variety of essential nutrients for their proper development. The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats, and provides all the nutrients needed for growth and development.
The Mediterranean diet helps maintain physical health
The Mediterranean diet brings many benefits to the body of growing children, benefits that will follow them throughout their lives if they maintain this lifestyle.
Children who follow the Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese. This reduces the potential for obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and promotes optimal physical health.
Be careful not to focus solely on your child’s weight—long-term health is much more important than the numbers on a scale.
The Mediterranean diet helps cognitive development
The Mediterranean diet is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, especially through increased consumption of fish. Omega-3 is an essential element for brain development and cognitive functions in children. By consuming fish, your children will develop their brains properly and may even improve their academic performance in school.
Studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet can also have a positive impact on mental health, reducing the risk of depression and anxiety in young people.
How can we adapt the Mediterranean diet for children?
It is important that children receive a healthy, balanced diet that contains foods from each food group to ensure adequate nutrient intake.
It is best to adopt nutritional changes based on the Mediterranean diet as a whole family. If you also follow this diet together with the little ones, you will motivate them and help them maintain these healthy habits. Just remember that, depending on their age and activity level, they need to be offered the right size portions.
Reducing unhealthy foods in favor of nutritious ones
For starters, you’ll need to reduce your child’s intake of foods rich in saturated fat and added sugar – here we are talking about fast food, snacks, sodas or sweets. Kids will be kids, and they’re sure to crave these kinds of foods from time to time. As long as it doesn’t happen often, there’s no problem.
Here are some suggestions of snacks suitable for children which can replace unhealthy snacks, inspired by the Mediterranean diet:
- Finely chopped fruits and vegetables: apples, pears, bananas, oranges, carrots, peppers, cucumbers.
- Wholemeal or toasted bread with butter or low-fat spread.
- Natural yogurt or plain fresh cheese, with the addition of your own fresh, frozen or canned fruit.
- Whole grains with no added sugar.
- Sandwiches with healthy fillings such as tomatoes, bananas, tuna, lean meat or eggs.
How do you ensure adequate iron intake?
Iron is essential for children’s development. It can be found in animal (meat and fish) and plant-based foods (whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes and dried fruits). It is important to combine iron-rich foods with sources of vitamin C to increase the absorption of this mineral.
Limiting salt consumption
It is crucial to limit salt intake in children to prevent health problems associated with it. Here are the recommendations for daily salt consumption according to age:
- From one to three years: no more than 2 g/day.
- From four to six years: no more than 3 g/day.
- Between seven and ten years: no more than 5 g/day.
- 11 years and over: no more than 6 g/day.
The Mediterranean diet can bring many health benefits to your children and can help reduce the risk of long-term health problems. Be sure to give your children a variety of healthy and delicious foods to help them grow up healthy and happy!
If you don’t know where to start, read the beginner’s guide to the mediterranean diet and download the Dahna app to receive varied and accessible menus generated according to your body’s needs.