A balanced diet is of great importance for the development and health of a child. Even eating habits acquired at an early age of 1-3 years can shape habits into adulthood. In the following text we give some hints on what to pay attention to when feeding children and their handling of food. In addition, we have a few tips for foods that are suitable for a healthy and balanced diet for children.
Learning to eat
For children of all ages it is important to maintain a regular rhythm of meals. According to ESPGHAN (European Society for Peadiatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrion) at least 4 meals per day are recommended for children 2 years and older. However, the distribution of meals varies depending on different cultures. It is common to have 3 main meals plus 1-2 snacks in Germany. If possible, you should eat together with your family at least once a day. If meals are combined with pleasant experiences, this also promotes a positive development of eating habits and communication skills.
Get to know food diversity
Variety and diversity in the choice of food for (young) children can affect their later eating experiences. Therefore, the acceptance of nutritious food, such as vegetables and fruit, should be promoted. This is achieved by repeatedly encouraging children to try new foods. They should also be able to discover the look, feel and consistency of foods. Especially open to new taste experiences are babies aged half a year and infants up to about 2 years. Children between the ages of 2 and 6, on the other hand, are more likely to reject new foods. A combination with an already familiar taste helps the child to get to know new foods and to build up a diverse sensitivity to flavours. However, children should not be forced to eat. Regular rewards or punishments with meals or snacks such as sweets should also be avoided.
Balanced and varied diet
Children and infants can and should participate in family meals. Of course, food should be prepared according to the children's age and served in smaller portions. When eating together, it is important that parents set a good example, because children learn through observation and imitation. The eating habits of the parents also shape the children's eating habits over time. Basically, a balanced and varied family diet contains:
- Lots of fluids: Children should drink plenty of fluids between meals. Water, teas, other unsweetened drinks and strongly diluted juice spritzers are preferable.
- Many fresh foods: plenty of plant-based and fibre-rich foods such as vegetables and fruit, cereal products or potatoes. These do not have to be on the menu at every meal, but should at least be on the menu every day. It doesn't matter whether they are raw, cooked or pureed.
- Moderate animal foods: Dairy products, meat, fish or eggs should be dosed in moderate quantities. One to two times a week meat or fish are completely sufficient.
- Sugar and salt in moderation: Sweets, chips, snacks or other foods with a high amount of sugar, salt and/or saturated fatty acids should be the exception.
Vegetarian and vegan nutrition in infancy
The ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet, i.e. a vegetable diet containing dairy products and eggs, is also possible for small children. However, a balanced supply of protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids should be ensured. A completely vegan diet is not recommended for small children, as there is a high risk of nutrient deficiency. In general, medical advice should always be consulted when parents decide on a special diet for their child.
Food allergies and food intolerances
Allergic reactions to food often occur for the first time at the age of two or three, but babies can be affected as well. However, allergies or intolerances can also occur in adults. If intolerances are discovered in children, the diet should always be adapted or changed with medical support.
How can you identify foods and snack products that are suitable for children?
Most foods that are specially produced for infants, as infant formula or as supplementary food are labelled accordingly. In most cases, there is a note on the packaging indicating the age at which the food can be consumed. Products specially manufactured for infants between the ages of 1 and 3 are subject to special regulations (Dietary Ordinance for Infant and Child Food). In these regulations, manufacturers are given specifications for residues, harmful substances and other ingredients.
In general, it is important to ensure a balanced diet for infants and children (see above). Many products without a specific label are also suitable for this purpose. These include all fresh foods and those with little or no added sugar, as well as those that contain low amounts of saturated fatty acids or salt.
To protect themselves from infections and poisoning, infants aged 1-3 should not eat certain foods at all. These include raw animal products, such as raw or uncooked meat, raw sausages, raw fish, raw milk and soft cheeses made from raw milk, raw eggs and any food that has not been heated sufficiently.
Foods such as nuts, almonds or the like should not be accessible to small children and should only be consumed under supervision or in processed form as they can be swallowed (danger of aspiration).
Our fruit gummy is also suitable for small children and is very popular amongst the next generation of the foodloose team.
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