A healthy child is a happy child, which makes healthy eating a top priority. Food and drink provide the energy and nutrients that a young child needs to grow and thrive. Compared to adults, children need more nutritious foods for their size to support growth, develop bones, build muscle and provide the energy needed to actively explore the world.
Forming the foundation for good eating habits
What a child eats in their early years can have lifelong consequences on their eating habits, either good or bad. As your child begins to establish their own relationship with food, it is important to set the scene for healthy eating habits at a young age. Picky eaters, children with food allergies, children on restricted diets, like vegan diets, and sick children with poor appetites have a higher risk for undernutrition.
Worldwide, 40-67% of parents and caregivers report experiencing feeding difficulties with their children, which shows that many children – even those in loving and caring households – are at risk of growth faltering.
Food provides more than just nutrition: it is also important for hand-eye co-ordination and skills, physical growth, strong bones, improved concentration at school and healthier sleep patterns.
What are South African children eating?
Results from the 2014 Healthy Active Kids South Africa Report Card show that South African children are not consuming enough fruit and vegetables. Tuck-shop purchases, soft drink and fast-food consumption is unfortunately on the rise. One in five South African children skip breakfast and more than half don’t take a lunchbox to school each day. In fact, an increasing amount of the total energy that children eat is coming from unhealthy snacks and larger portion sizes. If not addressed, this could lead to a generation of unhealthy adults at higher risk for obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
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