Balanced nutrition is the foundation of life

Children aged 0-5 develop rapidly, and their bodies require diverse nutrition for this purpose. Healthy food provides children with energy for play and activity while nourishing their developing brains. Nutritional habits acquired in childhood often determine a child’s future preferences and attitudes toward food, affecting their health and well-being. Established dietary habits in childhood can influence various aspects, including physical development, immune strength, cognitive abilities, and overall quality of life.

Quality food = quality fuel for the brain

The brain oversees your thoughts, movements, breathing, heart rate, and sensory functions. The brain uses more energy than any other organ in our body—over 20% of our daily energy consumption! This means the brain constantly needs fuel — food. Like a luxury car, the brain functions best when it receives only premium fuel. Consuming quality food rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (found in berries, citrus fruits) nourishes the brain. Therefore, the food you choose to eat directly impacts brain efficiency, mood, and physique.

Healthy eating habits are crucial for a child’s developing brain. Food influences learning, skill acquisition, attention, and memory. Without the right nutrients, young children may struggle with developing concentration skills, which become increasingly important as they grow older. Nutrient-rich foods such as fish, vegetables, and berries are just some of the foods that enhance cognitive functions and memory. Conversely, processed foods, including refined sugar, additives, and artificial colorings, can negatively impact a child’s mind, reducing their learning ability.

Mood and nutrition are closely linked

“You are what you eat,” said French philosopher Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1825. Recent studies increasingly show how a person’s mood and energy level are closely linked to the food they consume daily. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, colloquially known as the “happiness hormone” or nervous system chemical messenger, which affects mood, sleep, appetite, memory, and learning. About 95% of serotonin is produced in the digestive tract. The internal processes of the digestive system not only aid in digesting food but also regulate emotions through activated nerve pathways that directly connect the intestines and the brain.

Scientists have found that a diverse and unprocessed diet reduces mood swings. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables provide the body with quick energy and help maintain stable blood sugar levels, which in turn ensures a child’s resilience in both physical and mental activities. The extent to which a food can affect your health and mood is noticeable when you exclude that particular food from your menu and analyze the changes in your body a few weeks later.

Parents are role models in shaping nutritional habits

Children often mirror their parents’ behaviors and habits, including dietary choices. What parents eat also influences a child’s nutrition. If there is a lot of sugary food at home, the child will eat it, and vice versa – if there are plenty of fruits, vegetables, and wholesome foods in the pantry, the child will get used to eating them. A diverse and healthy diet at home lays the foundation for a child’s dietary habits and encourages them to try different foods.

Regular meals and snacks are key to shaping a child’s healthy eating routine. It’s important for parents to take enough time for meals and do so in a homey and safe environment. When a child sees that they have time to eat calmly with their family, they also learn to enjoy food. Eating together as a family creates a positive relationship with food in the child and simultaneously fosters a deeper connection with family members. Therefore, shared meals should not be rushed.

Additionally, studies show that shared meals also contribute to the development of a child’s language and speech – they get to talk about their day and listen to others.

3 healthy habits to start with:

  • Simplicity is key: snacks can be fruits, vegetables, or a handful of nuts.
  • Eat the rainbow! Create colorful plates with different vegetables.
  • Take your time and don’t rush meals. It can be frustrating when a child eats slowly, but it helps them listen to their body and stop eating when they’re full.

However, it’s important to mention that children should not be pressured to eat. This can lead to a negative experience with food, and they may eat less. Let your child decide how much they eat during meals and snacks based on how hungry they feel. This way, the child learns to listen to their body and recognise their desires. Keep a bowl of vegetables, nuts, or raisins accessible to the child. When parents and other children take snacks from the bowl, eventually, the child who initially claimed not to like them will try them.

Encourage your child to try new flavors by organizing various cooking days at home, where the child can be involved in making food from start to finish. Cooking with your child at home can be a versatile and fun way to spend time together while teaching them important skills about cooking and nutrition. Prepare various national dishes at home. Choose recipes from different cultures together with your child and try making them at home.

Prevention and making healthy choices

What you decide to eat is extremely important throughout your life because it affects health, well-being, and overall quality of life. Shaping balanced and nutritious dietary habits from an early age is likely to result in making healthy and conscious food choices as an adult.

Balanced eating is the foundation of everything!