The growth period, from birth to adolescence, requires special dietary and nutritional attention.
It will gradually establish the fundamental parameters of the adult body: size, bone strength, fat mass, certain cerebral and nervous capacities.
Even if it is often possible to compensate for occasional critical situations (illness, poor food hygiene, etc.), establishing good eating habits from an early age is your responsibility for their education and health.
In this article, we detail the good habits to adopt for your child's diet, so that he integrates these good reflexes... throughout his life.
Controlling a child's weight and height: the essential guide for parents
Regular monitoring of the child's weight and height is the best indicator of successful growth.
Monitoring its evolution in relation to standard curves is the basis of pediatric control. This helps identify any deviations from this general standard.
A correct evolution of height and weight already allows us to conclude that protein and energy intake (lipids and carbohydrates) are satisfactory.
It is advisable to continue these measures beyond the pediatric follow-up period.
You will thus be able to detect any excessive weight gain, a sign of an unbalanced diet: too rich in energy (sugars, lipids) or a lack of physical activity. Unfortunately, more often than not, these two factors combine.
Attention ! This control does not make it possible to judge the finer and more significant micro-nutritional imbalances for the longer term. We think in particular of bone strength or neurological development which result from the intake of Calcium , Vitamin B12 , vitamin D.
4 tips for better food education
Helping your child to have good food hygiene is essential to their future development . This will have consequences on his health but also on his self-esteem and his relationship with food.
And because it is always easier to adopt good habits rather than change bad ones, childhood is the ideal time to direct them towards good practices.
Here are some rules to adopt on a daily basis:
1. Avoid snacking and nibbling:
Children eat more often than adults because their energy needs per kilogram of body weight are greater.
However, the volume of their stomach is smaller. Thus, more frequent intakes allow you to find the right balance.
This is what justifies the snack and the breakfast in the event of 11 o'clock in primary schools. These extras must remain supervised by adults.
We will favor healthy and simple foods, at a specific time, rather than ultra-processed products (sodas, snacks loaded with fat, sweets, sugars and salts) available at any time.
2. Eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day:
Let us not devalue this slogan which has established an essential minimum objective for young people.
The bulk of the diet should consist of fresh or simply processed, “homemade” products. A significant part of meals should also consist of plants.
Ultra-processed products are very loaded with additives and preservatives. Consequently, they have a destabilizing impact on the intestinal flora essential for the proper assimilation of food, in addition to their frequent nutritional imbalance.
Hidden sugars are also another danger of children's foods. Cereals hide real false friends under natural terminology. Most are too high in added sugars.
Reading labels can help you choose the most suitable product. The NutriScore is an imperfect benchmark, but nevertheless useful.
3. Take the time to eat, sitting:
Digestion is a complex process based on a balance between gastric digestion and intestinal digestion. In the stomach, food is reduced to a mush before entering the intestine where it will be truly absorbed into the body.
Snacking is a practice that completely disrupts this mechanism. Indeed, the stomach is never completely full nor completely empty and this has two very negative consequences:
- The feeling of satiety linked to the filling of the stomach no longer exists: the child's desire to eat becomes almost permanent, which is the worst behavior.
- Food arrives in the intestine poorly “pre-digested”, which disrupts the transit and proper absorption of micro-nutrients.
Michel Cymes , who uses his great reputation to encourage better food hygiene, confirms this: eating standing up and on the go disrupts digestion and reduces the feeling of satiety.
The child must therefore be taught to eat, sitting, and to chew food well. Structured meal feeding is the best method.
4. Avoid the consumption of fast sugars:
The treats must retain their exceptional character. Their consumption is certainly pleasant, but at the expense of poor or harmful nutritional intake.
This is why we consider that the very popular Gummies do not help children in their food education. This makes him imagine that candy can be good for his health.
What should I do if my child refuses to eat?
“My son only wants to eat dessert or cakes”
In certain everyday situations, applying the previous principles seems very complicated.
We could then be tempted to give in to his demands by abandoning healthy products for fear of imagining him undernourished or to avoid conflict situations.
In reality, this behavior which results in a child's reluctance to eat new foods is also called “food neophobia”. It affects at least 3 out of 5 children between 2 and 7 years old and can be resolved with patience, willpower and a few tips.
Here are some tips to help you better manage this situation:
- Don't force them to eat everything right away: food education is a progressive process. Give him small portions to give him time to discover these new flavors and get used to them. Obviously, you will favor “good” foods that he favors in order to give him confidence in your choices.
- Don't give in to temptation: It is important not to substitute a balanced meal for ultra-processed foods like cakes or chips to satisfy unsatisfied hunger! If your child only wants desserts, offer him fruits or dairy products. His appetite will return at the next meal. It is better to accept a small, very occasional and inconsequential nutritional imbalance, rather than accepting behavior that will be very detrimental later.
- Lead by example: children appreciate role models and will be keen to imitate the adults around them. The importance of meals taken with responsible adults (parents, nanny, etc.) is often neglected.
- Make the meal fun: vary the presentations and involve your children in preparing the meals, this will make them easier to accept.
In all cases, we recommend that you discuss dietary issues related to your child with your pediatrician.
What to remember for the good nutritional education of the child
Growth is a determining period and nutrition plays a main role: it must allow the good development of the child's body and its balance.
Good food education necessarily includes the adoption of good reflexes that your child will also apply in his future life and which will allow him to resist multiple temptations.
During this period, the role of adults and parents is fundamental in organizing the child's diet, who should not decide alone how they eat.
You can get help from a dietetics professional to design a nutritional program adapted to your child and your constraints.
Find contact details for professionals near you using our directory .