Where do we begin when it comes to schooling our children on the topic of eating healthily? Is it when they’re in preschool? Or is it when they are a lot older and wiser to make their own choices? Research shows that 30 percent of American preschoolers don’t eat one single vegetable, opting to start on tots or fries instead of carrot sticks. So where does the blame go? Is it the school for not putting on healthy meals? Is it the World Health Organization? Or is it us, the parents? While blame can be attributed to all three, I am going to focus on what we can do, as parents. The 1,000 Days organization is hoping to improve the nutrition of our children through the most crucial period of our children’s health, from pregnancy to their second birthday, the first 1000 days.
While the whole “breast is best” mentality is being pushed a lot in many different health organizations, studies have shown that one in five babies in the US aren’t fed breastmilk at all. A key factor in this is a lack of support to breastfeeding mothers, and not from the father, but actually the support the mother isn’t receiving in general, such as sufficient access to paid leave. It’s hardly surprising that children show symptoms of “toxic stress” and iron deficiency and 10 percent of children are showing signs of obesity by the time they turn two years old!
So, what are the best approaches you can take to support your child’s health during the most important time of their developmental stages?
Step One: Make Some “Womb” For A Healthy Diet
Before you have even been for your first scan, you can take steps to help yourself, and your baby develop healthily. There are many pieces of information that are communicated by your midwife or nurse. But the common ones are:
- Take a prenatal vitamin to ensure that you are not deficient in any of the key minerals or vitamins, such as folic acid.
- Avoid the toxins, like alcohol and tobacco. Studies have shown that smoking during pregnancy will seriously do damage to the development of your baby.
- Eat healthy foods high in protein, and make sure you get plenty of fruit and vegetables.
- Stress: avoid at all costs. Yes, this is tough in the first 12 weeks, and many moms will worry for the whole nine months. But the problem in being wired for stress is that it will make your baby carry these traits too. There are people who will argue that it is inherited, but the fact is that nature/nurture debate is still ongoing. There have been studies conducted on twins who were separated at birth, and it showed that they displayed completely different personality traits, and this was due to how they were raised. Stress is the defining illness in the modern world, and its links to depression and anxiety are becoming more documented and are yet another addition to what is dangerous to your health today. Start in the womb, and start as you mean to go on.
Step Two: What Is Best? Breast Or Formula?
The answer from a health perspective is well documented, but from a mother’s point of view, having a baby glued to your breast is not always conducive to good morale. If you can, the first few months are more beneficial than nothing. So if you have the time and capacity to do so, then it is worth it for the cognitive development of your child.
Once the baby goes onto foods, the cost of pureeing vegetables in comparison to buying pouches is a lot less. We are in the age where everything needs to be done now. Spending one evening a week pureeing and portioning up food to be frozen is a habit to get into. When people talk of a diet, it is always implied that a diet is something that is temporary. Instead, pushing for an attitude that is a “habit” instead of a diet is the preferred notion. As teeth come through and their tastes change, these are habits you still have control over before they are subjected to the schoolyard environment where cheddar bunnies are piled on your kid’s plate. And while there are services you can use to help with your kid’s cavities such as http://dentist.24hourly.com/, dentists always promote the fact that prevention is better than cure.
Step Three: Setting Your Child Up For A Future Of Healthy Eating
When they are old enough to answer back and will tell you, in no uncertain terms, that they won’t eat their vegetables, that being cruel to be kind is the right measure. You may feel that you are torn between letting your child eat what they want and therefore feeling full and satisfied, or going hungry. It is important to point out that if they miss a meal, they won’t die! Check out point two here, and in fact, fasting is good for the regenerative processes in your body. It may feel like you are in a standoff with your child but don’t back down. As soon as they’ve gone to bed hungry a couple of times and think that they will starve to death, they will eat their greens. It may sound cruel, but for your child’s long-term health, it’s worth it.
But setting up your child’s health for the ages isn’t about starving them once a week, it is about making sure the right habits and attitudes are formed towards food. A meal that is full of colored vegetables is visually a lot more appealing than yellow fries and a charcoal black burger. Get them involved with food preparation. It doesn’t need to be an exclusively parental role. Not only that, if you are asking them to participate it ticks off the task in getting them to contribute!
Health starts at home. So if you start to integrate the right habits and ideas about what your children should eat, then set the example yourself.