By Tabibi 24/7 Nutritionist Sherifa El Nahass
Children who eat too much fat, sugar, sodium or processed food and too few vitamins and minerals are at a higher risk of developing several chronic health problems over time. These include diabetes, kidney stones, bone loss, cancer and heart disease.
On the other hand, proper nutrition is tied to better academic performance, so kids who have poor eating habits are more likely to score lower on tests and have a harder time with schoolwork.
There are long-term effects as well, not getting enough essential nutrients at meals may lower kids’ IQ scores, memory capacities, fine motor skills, social skills and languages skills into early adulthood and beyond.
A child’s poor dietary habits can even influence sleep patterns, which may have an effect on cognitive behavior and academic abilities. Children who are micronutrient-deficient may exhibit more aggressiveness, less mental endurance and lower intelligence test scores.
Reduce sugar intake
Excessive sugar intake interferes with children’s cognitive abilities, depletes their energy and makes them lose focus more easily. Designing a lunch box that includes the right amount of proteins, carbs, fats and fibers is important for your child’s overall health, growth and development. It helps keep their brain and nervous system working properly.
Watch those calories
School-age children need about 1,600 to 2,500 calories per day. Caloric ranges are just general guidelines since caloric needs vary a lot based on size, activity level and whether or not the child has been sick recently. Calories aren’t the only thing you need to be aware of if you want your child to be healthy; you also need to make sure your child is eating a mix of foods from all the food groups.
Keep hydrated with water
Water has none of the sugar found in fruit drinks, soft drinks, sports drinks and flavored mineral waters, which can cause tooth decay. Imagine that one can of soft drink per day adds 18 kilos of sugar to your child’s diet each year! Also, the fluoride in tap water helps your child develop strong teeth and bones.
The recommended daily amount of fluids varies with age as follows:
- 5 to 8 years old: 5 glasses (1 litre) per day
- 9 to 12 years old: 7 glasses (1.5 litres) per day
- 13 years +: 8 to 10 glasses (2 litres) per day
These amounts could be increased if exercising or on a hot day. We often don’t feel thirsty even when our bodies need fluid, so it’s a good idea to drink water regularly throughout the day.