7 child nutrition myths, busted

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Today we have endless nutrition information at our fingertips. But for many first-time mums, it can be hard separating fact from fiction, particularly when it comes to feeding your toddler.

Here, we bust seven child nutrition myths.

Myth 1: Fruit juice is a healthy choice

Fruit juice is something toddlers can do without, as research shows too much can lead to gastrointestinal upsets, reduced appetite, obesity and dental caries.

While 100 per cent pure juice contains vitamins, it’s no substitute for eating the whole fruit which contains valuable fibre3.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends water over fruit juices for kids of all ages.

Myth 2: Toddlers can’t eat nuts before they’re three

While nuts and other hard foods like chunks of apple and raw carrot increase the risk of choking in children under the age of three, it doesn’t mean they need to avoid nuts completely.

Those younger than three just need a suitable way to eat them. Try adding nut butters to smoothies, add almond meal to muffins, or use ground nuts instead of breadcrumbs to coat chicken.

According to The National Health and Medical Research Council, nuts can be introduced to your bub from 6 months of age.

Myth 3: They should eat three square meals a day

Kids have small stomachs – they’re about the size of their fist!

To help them meet their daily nutrient needs they need to eat small, frequent meals with healthy snacks like fruit, cheese, vegetable sticks and yoghurt.

Remember to keep snacks small in size so they don’t interfere with their meals though.

Myth 4: It’s OK to make them finish their plate

As parents we tend to worry that our kids aren’t eating enough, particularly if they’re not cleaning their plates.

But kids have a really great inbuilt appetite control mechanism and they know when they’ve had enough.

Pressuring kids to eat “just one more mouthful” can lead to food avoidance, negative food associations and altered bodyweight.

Instead, try to let your child decide when to stop eating and trust them when they say they’re full.

Myth 5: Kids need special meals

While many parents think toddlers need blander food than adults, the truth is they have more taste buds than adults and research suggests they even develop taste preferences in the womb.

Exposing your child to a wide variety of flavours and textures helps them create a more complex palate.

So, while your child might not take to a vindaloo curry, adding a dash of cinnamon to their oats, oregano to their pasta sauce or cumin to their carrots can help them enjoy a wider range of flavours.

Myth 6: They should eat low-fat diets

Low-fat diets are not suitable for young children, particularly those under two. They are growing fast and fat is an important energy source for them.

Fat also provides essential fatty acids and promotes the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Not getting enough fat can negatively affect a child’s growth and development.

It’s important your child gets the right types of fat – include healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts and oily fish and limit foods high in added fats like chips and cakes.

Myth 7: If your child rejects a food it means they’re a fussy eater

Food refusal is a normal part of development. Food comes in all different flavours and textures and your child needs time to familiarise themselves with them all.

Make sure your child is relaxed, not too tired or distracted by other things when you introduce new foods.

Offer new options alongside foods they like and if your child won’t try it, take the plate away and try again another time.

For more information to help with simplifying nutrition check out Karicare Toddler’s bottled up series here or head to karinouish.com.au.

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