What about obesity?
Many studies have established a link between a high in fat and sugar diet to the rising prevalence of obesity. However, during early childhood, small eaters have very high energy requirements, but a limited appetite because of their small stomachs. Therefore, we should not restrict young children’s consumption of foods that are high in fat or added sugar just because they contain more calories. In fact, it is recommended to give whole milk (3.25%) to children (up to two years old) to better meet their needs.
Supermarkets are offering a larger range of products in a « light » version or made from intense sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame or acesulfame-potassium). These products have the advantage of containing very few calories and are thus meeting the needs of many weight-concerned customers.
However, reduced-calorie foods are not suitable for growing children. Eating these products is more likely to harm their health because they won’t be getting all the nutrients required for their development. In addition, intense sweeteners make consumers become accustomed to the sweetness and boost its appeal. You should therefore try to choose natural sugars over these substitutes.
A few precautions
When you give your kids these « occasional » foods :
- Watch the portion size, because although they are only served occasionally, it doesn’t mean they should be eaten in large quantities!
- When possible, choose products that contain less salt. “Special » foods are often very salty, and a high consumption of sodium is unhealthy for both children and adults.
- Opt for homemade desserts to control the sugar and fat content.
- Never use candy as a treat or blackmail (eg. : finish your meal or you won’t get dessert). It would only make the food that much more appealing.
- When serving « occasional » foods, complete the meal with a nutritious side dish to meet your little ones’ needs.
- Play down the importance of eating treats and avoid placing them on a pedestal. The child will thus be able to taste and enjoy these treats without making a big deal out of it.
- All foods can fit into a healthy and balanced diet. So allow yourself somelittle treats!
Prohibited because of allergies
In many childcare establishments, products containing nuts and peanuts are often forbidden to ensure the safety of children with allergies.
This type of prohibition is sometimes necessary to avoid any incident. Nuts and peanuts allergies are increasingly common and the allergen they contain spreads very easily. It is therefore preferable to remove all products containing these allergens and let parents serve these foods at home.
- Côté, Stéphanie. Un enfant sain dans un corps sain, 2008.
- Larousse gastronomique, Édition 2001.
By Mylène Duplessis Brochu, nutritionnist