Demystifying 8 common Nutritional Fallacies
Created by Tanuja Sodhi Updated on Jul 12, 2013
When we are nutritionally ignorant, we are happily lost in our own little culinary world, far from the brouhaha surrounding the field of nutrition which is perpetually barraged with incessant information on what to eat and what not to eat, when to eat, how to eat, and many more such questions. Many a times, the information is self-contradictory and leaves the reader utterly baffled. In such a scenario of over-information, it is not at all surprising to expect muddled minds seeking ‘the actual’ truth especially when it concerns their little ones’ health and nutrition. So,here I am bursting the bubble around 8 common misconceptions that surround child nutrition.
Myth 1:Carbohydrates make children fat.
Reality:All carbohydrates are not evil guys. In fact, of the three macronutrients in our diet namelycarbohydrates, protein and fats; carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy. It’sespecially essential for a child to have a carbs-rich diet to manage the energy levelswhile studying and exercising. Carbohydrates greatly impact the concentration levels in all of us and subsequently a low-carbs diet would mean lower concentration. Roughly 70% of the daily calories of a childshould come from complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, brown rice, whole grains, multigrain bread/roti, sweet potato, dried & fresh beans and legumes. The ones to give a cold-shoulder to are called simple carbohydratessuch as table sugar, white bread, refined flour, white pasta, white rice, sugary cereals, fruit juices, candy etc.
Fact: Most simple carbs are nutritionally empty.
Myth 2: Fat is bad and should be eliminated from the diet.
Reality:Fat again has two faces- One saintly and the other beastly. You should be able to tell good fat from the bad fat as eliminating fat completely from a child’s diet is not an option. Saturated fats and trans fats are the villains who push us towards heart ailments; while MUFA (mono unsaturated fatty acids) and PUFA (poly unsaturated fatty acids) are the guardian angels that care for our health. Saturated fats are foods like red meat, processed meat products, dairy products like cream, creamy cheese and butter; coconut, coconut oil, palm oil.Trans fats are foods like burgers, fried chicken, French fries, all fried food, cookies, cakes, chips and all foods that fall under the junk food category.The most effective replacements for these bad fats are PUFA (contained in safflower, soybean, sunflower and sesame oils, fish, flaxseeds and walnuts, etc) and MUFA (contained in sesame seed, soybean and sunflower seed oils, almonds, peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts, pistachios, cashews and Brazil nut). These lower coronary heart disease risk and increase good cholesterol.
Fact: MUFA (mono unsaturated fatty acids) and PUFA (poly unsaturated fatty acids) are good and essential fats.
Myth 3:Children need constant snacks.
Reality: While some snacking is beneficial, children today typically snack all day long. Snacking wouldn't be worrisome if children were munching on healthy and nutrient-rich foods. Ideal snacks would be multigrain veggie sandwich, multigrain cheese sandwich, veggie upma, red rice poha, fruit, vegetable fingers with a healthy dip, vegetable juice, peanut butter sandwich, peanuts and chanas with shellbut alas! this was not to be. Childhood snacking trends are moving toward almost 3 snacks per day as compared to 1 healthy snack per day around 30 years ago, with fried packaged food, cookies, cakes, candy, desserts and sweetened beverages as the major source of calories. These could contribute to major fat gain. And overweight children and teenagers are at a higher risk of developing serious diseases such as type II diabetes and heart disease.
Fact: Healthy snacks are important in a child’s diet.
Myth 4: Children can have fruit juice all day long.
Reality:Fruit juices are a concentrated source of sugar that does not have the same level of nutrients as one may get from whole fruits. Instead, one ends up consuming a whole lot of calories while the hunger still persists. Fruit juices also lack fiber that keeps us full for a longer period. They spike up the energy levels quickly, but are quicker in dipping the blood sugar, which leads to fall in energy levels. Hence giving a juicy fruit to the little ones to chomp instead of juices every now and then for optimum health benefits. But if fruit juices must be given to the kids, give fresh juices once in a while instead of commercially packed juices. Commercially packed juices hardly have any real fruit in them and contain mostly fruit flavors in the garb of real fruit.
Fact: A whole fruit is always better to have than fruit juice.
Myth5:As long as my child takes a multivitamin every day he or she is covered nutritionally.
Reality:It is a common belief that a daily multivitamin is a good health insurance for children but the important fact around it is that forget that it isonly a supplementthat is meant to complement diet, and not a proxy for the foods that a child may not want to eat. What's more, taking too many supplements and evading natural foods can end up sabotaging your child’s future health.It also means that you are going to miss out on the synergistic health effects that can only come from whole foods. Supplementing your child’s diet with individual nutrients may be done with the guidance of your doctor as multi-vitamins are definitely not a cure-all for a poor diet.
Fact: Multi vitamins should compliment the diet and may be consumed on the doctor’s recommendations.
Myth 6: Children should be taught to clean their plates.
Reality:Young children usually stop eating when they feel full, and it may not be wise for parents to override these natural eating cues. Serving adult-size portions and encouraging children to eat more than they want, may lead to negative eating behaviors in later years.This treatment may condition them in their growing years to polish-off whatever is served in their plate whether they’re feeling full or not. This is also a major source of obesity. So, serving your child half of an adult-sized portion and allowing your child to stop eating when he/she feels satisfied may be more beneficial in a longer run.
Fact: A child will always stop eating when full.
Myth 7: Children have different tastes from adults and need special foods.
Reality:Children have no predetermined tastes, and can learn to eat almost everything that parents eat. At a younger age they are in the process of developing preferences for certain foods,so if your child is offered mostly sweet, salty, bland or fatty foods, then s/he will grow up with a fondness for these foods. Food Industryplace a big role in misleading parents by trying toconvince them through brilliant marketing that children only like to eat certain kinds offoods (these may be highly, processed, sugary, salty).Knowing the food facts can help children into making right food choices. Starting them off in life with positive eating habits by introducing them to different foods, tastes, and textures early will helpthem and ensure that the variety and nutrients in your child's diet is appropriate.
Fact: It is important to keep variety in food choices but not necessary to give child specific foods.
Myth 8:Toget enough iron, my preschooler needs red meat a few times a week.
Reality: There is no denying that iron is a critical nutrient for your child's growth and development, and that red meat is an excellent source of iron, but your child can get adequate iron from many other foods too, likeseafood, poultry, beans, whole-grain or enriched cereal, legumes, dried fruits and green leafy vegetables. Red meat is the main dietary source of high blood cholesterol and if consumed frequently, it could raise the bad cholesterol level (LDL) when the child grows up,which in turn could lead to serious heart ailments.
Fact: There are a lot of foods options that are iron rich besides red meat.
There is no denying the fact that we want to believe statistics that so many people proclaim to be true and over-zealous marketing endorses. Though it’s easier to follow the herd instinct, we could dissect and verify each of these beliefs from more authentic sources,as it is our precious children whose health is at stake.
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