Video: Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy Part 2 with Dr. Gregory Ward
Dr. Gregory Ward explores nutrition research that points to the benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3.
By: Lucy Jones, MRES BSC Hons RD MBDA
October 27, 2016
Lots of parents face the constant battle of getting their little ones to eat a balanced diet; in particular, enough fruits and vegetables. Fussy eating is a really common parental concern; with half of parents labeling their little ones as ‘picky’ when it comes to their food .
Fussy eating is actually a normal part of growing up and for the most part, doesn’t need to cause you worry. Most children continue to grow and thrive and as long as their picky eating phase is fairly short lasting, no more action is generally needed.
If it carries on and children don’t eat a good variety of foods, there could be more long-lasting implications. One thing to consider is that poor diets in childhood can often predict poor diets in adulthood, which could increase the risk of chronic disease . After all, ‘Balanced nutrition early in life is essential for health later in life’ . In today’s current global epidemic of obesity, we are all aware of the need to support healthy behaviors in the next generation. Studies have linked fussy eating habits with higher intakes of saturated fats; and less varieties of fruits and vegetables eaten; the same behaviors often linked to obesity. Fussy eaters also seem to have lower intakes of folate, fiber, vitamin E and vitamin C, likely linked to their reduced intake of fruits and vegetables . Research is also now showing the impact that low intakes of particular nutrients can have on learning and development. Studies in England have shown that children with the lowest levels of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA) in their blood had poorer reading skills . Even for those not labeled picky, there are shocking government statistics about our children’s diets with the majority eating too much sugar and not enough oily fish, fruits, vegetables or fiber . This could spell disaster for their long-term health.The good news – there are some things parents can do to help.
Family meals are pretty powerful when it comes to encouraging healthy habits in little ones. In fact, they lead to a 35 percent lower chance a child will engage in disordered eating, a 24 percent higher chance of them eating healthier foods and a 12 percent lower risk of them being overweight .
Not only that but parents, siblings and friends acting as role models can help to overcome fussy eating . Eating with good role models in school can also positively influence healthy habits .
Refusal of new foods is entirely normal. Don’t stress or make a fuss. Simply remove what isn’t eaten without comment but continue to offer the same food alongside more accepted foods at future mealtimes. It could take 15-25 exposures before they like it and continuing to offer it increases the chances it will be eaten, eventually.
Research has shown however that most of us give up and stop offering a rejected food beyond five attempts, which is far too early to change behavior [11,12,13].
Enlist their help in designing a chart for pride and place it on the fridge door. You can use this chart to track trying new fruits or vegetables, reaching five portions a day or for increasing variety by adding stickers. If reward charts aren’t your thing, marbles in a glass jar can serve the same purpose. Make sure good efforts are rewarded regularly but don’t be tempted to reward eating well with liked foods (for instance cake or chocolate), this just reinforces the idea that this food is better. Try using a play date or game outside together as an incentive.
Emerging evidence also supports the idea that simply seeing, touching, learning about and handling food can increase its acceptance in the same way as repeated exposures, from a grow your own vegetable patch to food pictures in books [14,15].
Get your children involved in food preparation. From growing their own cress on a window ledge to tending their own patch outside, taking them to a pick-your-own farm and enlisting their help with washing, stirring, mixing and cooking. Touching, seeing and handling foods can help your child get familiar with different fruits and vegetables and therefore make them more likely to eat them.
Use fruits and vegetables in interesting ways. Try making fruit ice pops, root vegetable cakes like carrot cake or beetroot brownie, and making pieces of art on a plate. Adding some fun and interest to meals makes eating less of a bore.
There are lots of ways to hide extra servings of fruit and vegetables in children’s food from offering a juice (with some hidden juiced veggies inside), in soups, pasta sauces and even mashed potato (by swapping some mashed carrot, butternut squash and swede in place of potato). However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a helpful solution long term. It can certainly provide more nutrients in the short term but working with children to increase their acceptance of fruits and vegetables is the real goal. Helping them to understand the importance of a balanced diet in feeling and being well can help set them up with good eating habits for life.
That being said, being aware of any dietary shortfalls and bridging the gap can at least help keep them well in the short term while you do the real work underneath. There are lots of ways to increase intakes of lacking nutrients. If your little one won’t eat oily fish, consider fortified foods and drinks like DHA-fortified milk and eggs. If they lack variety in their diets, they may well benefit from a vitamin and mineral supplement to make up any shortfall. Combining fortified foods and the strategies above can help them be well in both the short and long term.
1. Carruth BR et al (2004). Prevalence of ‘‘picky/fussy’’ eaters among infants and toddlers and their caregivers’ decision about offering new food. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vol 104, pp. 57–64. (2)
2. Craigie AM, Lake AA, Kelly SA, Adamson AJ, Mathers JC (2011). Tracking of obesity-related behaviours from childhood to adulthood. A systematic review. Maturitas, vol 70(3), pp. 266–284.
3. Schwartz C, Scholtens PAMJ, Lalanne A, Weenen H, Nicklaus S (2011) Development of healthy eating habits early in life. Review of recent evidence and selected guidelines. Appetite. Vol 57. Pp. 796-807
4. Falciglia GA, Cough SC, Siem Gribble L, Pabst SM, Frank R (2000) Food Neophobia in childhood affects dietary variety. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Vol 100(12) pp. 1474-1478, 1481
5. Galloway AT, Fiorito LM, Lee Y, Birch, LL (2005). Parental pressure, dietary patterns and weight status among girls who are picky/fussy eaters. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vol 105, pp. 541–548.
6. Montgomery P, Burton JR, Sewell RP, Spreckelsen TF, Richardson AJ (2013) Low Blood Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids in UK Children Are Associated with Poor Cognitive Performance and Behaviour: A Cross-Sectional Analysis from the DOLAB Study. PLoS ONE 8(6): e66697. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066697
7. Public Health England (2016) National Diet and Nutrition Survey Results from Years 5 and 6 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2012/2013 – 2013/2014). Accessed from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/551352/NDNS_Y5_6_UK_Main_Text.pdf Last Accessed 14/10/16
8. Fiese, B. & Hammons, A. (2011). Is frequency of shared family meals related to the nutritional health of children and adolescents? Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 127, 1565-1574.
9. Mitchell GL, Farrow C, Haycraft E, Meyer C (2013) Parental influences on children’s eating behaviour and characteristics of successful parent-focussed interventions. Appetite. Vol 60. Pp 85-94
10. Heim S, Stang J, Ireland M. (2009). A garden pilot project enhances fruit and vegetable consumption among children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vol 109, pp. 1220–1226.
11. Carruth, BR, Ziegler PJ, Gordon A, & Barr SI (2004). Prevalence of ‘‘picky/fussy’’ eaters among infants and toddlers and their caregivers’ decision about offering new food. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vol 104, pp. 57–64.
12. Mitchell GL, Farrow C, Haycraft E, Meyer C (2013) Parental influences on children’s eating behaviour and characteristics of successful parent-focussed interventions. Appetite. Vol 60. Pp 85-94
13. Maier A, Chabanet C, Schaal B, Issanchou S, Leathwood P (2007) Effects of repeated exposure on acceptance of initially disliked vegetables in 7-month old infants. Food Quality and Preference. Volume 18, Issue 8, Pages 1023–1032
14. Heim S, Stang J, Ireland M. (2009). A garden pilot project enhances fruit and vegetable consumption among children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vol 109, pp. 1220–1226.
15. Heath P, Houston-Price C, Kennedy OB (2011) Increasing food familiarity without the tears. A role for visual exposure? Appetite. Vol 57. Pp 832-838
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