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What is important to know about children's nutrition?

"Mom, I really won't eat this", "those vegetables don't taste good", "I don't want it, I don't like it" - these and many similar phrases have probably been heard by all parents. So how to introduce healthy eating rules to children? What can be done to ensure that the child gets all the nutrients his growing body needs? Children's nutrition specialist Živilė Dumbraitė-Varkalienė answers these and other questions.

As a nutritionist notes in a fruttberry press release, picky eating in children is an extremely sensitive and common problem faced by many parents.

"Perhaps the most common problem from early childhood is an undereating or picky child who is difficult to please. Then his food ration becomes very limited, only certain foods are eaten, he refuses to eat healthy products", says Ž. Dumbraitė-Varkalienė.
It is true that although the rules of healthy eating for adults and children are quite similar, the specialist warns that it is not appropriate to experiment with the nutrition of children.

"Children are a growing, developing organism, so the influence of nutrition is especially important during childhood. Laying the foundation for a healthy relationship with food in early childhood increases the chances of good health and avoiding certain lifestyle diseases in adulthood. The most important rule of nutrition for children is variety. If adults can experiment, refuse one or other products, it is not recommended for children to exclude any products or product groups from the diet, especially those of animal origin," says the nutritionist.

Parents should set a good example

WHO experts recommend eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Unfortunately, residents of many European countries, including Lithuania, consume much less of them. According to Ž. Dumbraitė-Varkalienė, this is caused by bad eating habits and lack of time.

"I think that this situation is mainly caused by bad eating habits. Also lack of time - often people simply do not have time to prepare vegetables. "Seasonality may also have some influence, although this reason is gradually losing its meaning, because at the moment almost all vegetables can be purchased in stores all year round," says the children's nutritionist.

However, as she claims, in order to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables from an early age, it is important to set the right example for parents themselves.

"First of all, parents should set the right example. If the parents themselves do not like or eat vegetables, then the children will not take the initiative themselves. Another tip would be to simply serve vegetables. If there are carrots in the fridge, a rare child will pick them up, peel, wash, cut and chew them. But if mom or dad does this and serves carrots in plain sight, chances are the child will eat them. Exactly the same rule applies to all other vegetables," says Ž. Dumbraitė-Varkalienė.

Lyophilized products can help

True, if the child completely refuses to eat vegetables and fruits, the nutritionist recommends trying freeze-dried products. According to her, freeze-dried foods may even be superior to regular vegetables and fruits in certain aspects.

"Lyophilising is an excellent and modern way to preserve the good qualities of vegetables and fruits for a longer period of time. Freeze-dried products do not contain water, but all other substances remain, such as vitamins, minerals and fiber. In addition, they become more concentrated - a smaller amount contains more useful substances, such as antioxidants, than the same amount of ordinary fruits or vegetables," says the children's nutritionist.

According to her, freeze-dried products will be suitable for children who are picky and do not agree to eat fruits and vegetables in their natural form. "Of course, preference should always be given to fresh food, but most children do not eat enough fruits and vegetables to reach the daily recommendation, so such freeze-dried products can become an excellent part of the daily diet and supplement meals," asserts the children's nutritionist.

Snacks should not be forgotten

According to the specialist, parents should not forget to prepare not only the main meals of the day, but also to plan children's snacks.

“It all depends on the rhythm of the day, but usually 1-2 snacks may be needed. The gap between meals should not be longer than 3-4 hours, otherwise we risk overeating. Then the food choices will not be so adequate and we will choose fattier, less healthy food. For snacks, you can choose fruits, vegetables, cheese, sandwiches, nuts, yogurt, kefir, etc. It is best if the snack consists of both protein, fat and carbohydrate sources.

Ž. Dumbraitė-Varkalienė reminds that, in any case, the most important example for a child is the eating habits of the parents - it is they who have the greatest influence on the child's relationship with food. "If parents do not set an example at home, it will also be reflected in the child's behavior at the table. If it is customary to eat oatmeal porridge at home, then the child will not be surprised to see such porridge in kindergarten or school. In the same way with vegetables, if vegetables are always abundantly consumed at home, there will not even be a question about whether vegetables will end up on the child's lunch plate at school," says the interviewee.

It is important to increase children's nutritional literacy

Ž. Dumbraitė-Varkalienė states that in order for the child to avoid various eating disorders in the future, it is very important to refrain from inappropriate comments about food.

"You shouldn't pressure or tell your children to eat what you don't eat yourself. In particular, do not comment on the amount of food a child eats, its appearance, and try not to suppress emotions with food. This is especially important for preventing eating disorders. At the table, talk about interesting, pleasant topics about activities, the weather, etc., but try not to comment on food, talk about it only in facts, do not try to force the child to eat," says the specialist.

According to the nutritionist, in order to increase children's nutrition literacy, it is important to talk to them a lot and create common traditions.

"We can increase children's nutritional literacy by talking to them, telling them about the benefits of food, creating family traditions, for example, a weekend dinner when everyone eats what is served on the table. Efforts should be made to involve children in the process of cooking, preparing, even planning and shopping for food. Try to listen to their wishes and plan one or several dinners a week according to what the child wants most", advises Ž. Dumbraitė-Varkalienė.