Sure, cereal, carrot batons and wholemeal pasta with tomato sauce is super-healthy and just what a growing child needs. Yet, feeding your baby lots of whole grains and fibre, with barely any meat, dairy or fat, could cause issues. In fact, “muesli malnutrition” — the term experts are applying to the kind of super-low-fat, low-calorie diets some well-meaning mums keep their kids on — is a growing concern. It’s because, confusingly, the food rules adults follow don’t apply to kids. Explains paediatric dietitian Judy More, “Babies’ and young children’s nutritional needs are different from ours, as they’re still growing. Parents are bombarded with health messages, and some may not realise that children need higher levels of fat and carbohydrates than adults.”
Don’t leave out the good stuff
The latest stats show one in eight young children is anaemic, while a recent study discovered that the diets of many infants and preschool children are low in zinc (essential for growth), vitamin A (for immunity and eye health) and vitamin D (vital for bone health). This suggests it’s not just what you put in your children that can cause problems, but what you leave out.
Get the amount right
While adults are advised to have a high-fibre diet, this isn’t suitable for little ones. “Too much fibre can fill up young children before they have eaten enough of other foods,” notes dietitian Jane Clarke. This can prevent them from taking in enough calories and it can also compromise their absorption of calcium and iron. It’s a balancing act, though — too little fibre can cause constipation, but too much can lead to a lack of energy and anaemia.
Balance the diet
And, while large amounts of fat are never a good idea, experts agree you shouldn’t restrict it in the diets of under-5s — everyone needs moderate amounts of healthy, unsaturated fats, such as those you get from olive oil and oily fish. More says, “The bottom line is, a varied diet based around meat, fish, poultry, fruit, veg, bread, pasta, rice, pulses and dairy products is healthy. It’s when you restrict choices that you encounter problems.” So, there is such a thing as a healthy diet, and it’s one that’s balanced, not obsessive. We’ll eat to that.
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How much should bubs eat in a day?
29 per cent Starchy carbs, such as brown rice and oatmeal
29 per cent Fruit and vegetables
18 per cent Dairy, such as cheese and yoghurt
12 per cent Protein, such as eggs and chicken
12 per cent Dessert and treats
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