What happens to all those attentions and precautions that parents have towards the nutrition of their children in the very first years of life? After having experienced the first baby food, and having accompanied the little one of the house to discover the typical flavors of family cooking, many let their guard down. And even those who have scrupulously followed the advice of the pediatrician in proposing complementary feeding (milk), gradually begins to make room in their pantry for snacks and snacks, fruit juices and carbonated drinks.
Also thanks to the frenzy of everyday life that overwhelms us in a whirlwind of commitments. In fact, haste becomes a bad advisor on the supermarket shelves and so we risk being tempted by ready-to-use foods, comfortable but high in calories and rich in fats and sugars. And more easily we give in to the request, which arrives more or less punctually near the checkout counters, to buy a packet of chips or a chocolate bar for a quick snack (quick yes, but not healthy).
But what are the most common mistakes in the nutrition of children of this age group? «The most frequent mistake is the excess of proteins of animal origin: children eat, in particular, too much meat, cheese and sausages. It would take just one portion per day of protein of animal origin (perhaps even less) to satisfy their nutritional needs (and also those of adults who carry out normal physical activity), instead most of them exceed ", he explains. Sergio Conti Nibali, head of the nutrition group of the Cultural Association of Pediatricians.
"Another mistake is certainly linked to the consumption of fruit juices and sugary drinks in general, snacks and super-calorie snacks," adds the pediatrician. “When children are thirsty, they should drink only water and not sugary drinks. And if they want fruit they should eat it and not resort to canned juices. And when they want the dessert they should take it from the pantry, perhaps prepared together with mum or dad ”.
Also Alfredo Vanotti, professor at the University of Lugano and Bicocca in our city and head of the Clinical and Dietary Nutrition Service of the Fatebenefratelli Hospital in Erba (Como), agrees: "Consuming fruit juices can become a very dangerous habit, to the detriment of intake of water and consumption of fresh fruit (chopped, blended, centrifuged, etc.) ". With the risk, lurking, of making an excessive supply of calories (juices contain sugars added to those commonly found in fruit).
«Also because - he adds Ilaria Giulini Neri, pediatrician and nutrition expert at the Melegnano Hospital and the Icans Center of the University of our city - typically if a child drinks a juice as a snack, he is not limited to that only. And if you combine it with an industrial snack, the snack risks becoming a calorie bomb: too many calories and few nutritional values ».
In short, too many calories and proteins and too many sugars and fats are likely to dominate the diet of Del Paeseni children, despite the fact that it is now known that they are the main suspects of the "extra pounds" problem that also affects the very young.
"In Del Paese - he reiterated for example Pierpaolo De Feo, professor of endocrinology at the University of Perugia on the occasion of the "VII International Mediterranean Meeting Nutrition and Metabolism" - childhood obesity is one of the most important health emergencies: 25% of the population between the ages of 0 and 18 is overweight ".
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A good nutritional education begins in the aisles of the supermarket, so that the pantry at home is not the realm of "unhealthy foods that the child can safely access, even without the control of mom and dad" he adds. Riccardo Davanzo, pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Trieste. «So to the fruit pudding, which provides many more calories than a child needs for a healthy snack, it is better to prefer a plain yogurt to which, if ever, add small pieces of fresh fruit at home.
And instead of stuffed snacks, it's better to buy the ingredients needed to make a cake all together: with less sugar and no preservatives "he suggests. Giulini Neri. «Of course, the snack should not be demonized, but it should only be consumed occasionally.
In short, it can be the exception and not the rule, because despite having a high energy density (many calories per unit of weight) it can have a low satiating power, so there is a risk that the child will eat more than one. with an excessive intake of calories, fats and sugars compared to the needs "he adds Laura Censi, nutritionist of the Council for Agricultural Research and Analysis of Agricultural Economics - Research Center for Food and Nutrition (CRA-NUT). However, the ideal snack is based on fruit (alternating, for example, with yogurt or bread and tomato) and should provide about 5% of the daily calories.
After all, fruit and vegetables should never be missing in the shopping cart. But unfortunately they are the big absentees from children's nutrition. More generally, then, all the other typical ingredients of the Mediterranean diet are welcome: pasta and other products based on cereals, legumes, to be alternated at the table, as a protein source, with fish, eggs, cheeses and meat. The problem is that parents, after the first refusals, get discouraged, and in order not to turn every meal into a little big battle, they often stop offering fruit, vegetables and legumes to their children.
"But it is essential to offer the child even many times a food that was initially rejected, so that it can be accepted and appreciated", explains Censi. Instead, between one engagement and another, it is easy to propose repetitive menus, too often based on meat. In the belief that a nice slice in a pan is ideal for a child.
“But in the end, our children are getting too much animal protein. So be careful not to overdo the consumption of meat and cheese and "hidden" protein sources, such as the sprinkling of grated cheese on pasta and ham in the snack sandwich ", reports Giulini Neri, recalling that according to the tables Larn (Reference levels of nutrient and energy intake for the Del Paesena population), the daily protein requirement for children of this age group is 0,94 grams per kilo of body weight, which roughly corresponds to 19 grams per day for a child of about 20 kg.
"Excessive protein intake causes an increase in the production of adipose tissue which causes an early adiposity rebound, or adiposity rebound, considered an indicator of the risk of developing obesity in adolescence and adulthood," Vanotti points out. In practice, typically after the first year the values of the body mass index tend to decrease and on average reach the minimum value around 5-6 years, before the subsequent physiological increase (adiposity rebound).
An increase in the body mass index before 5 years therefore indicates an early inversion of the growth curve: in other words an excessive weight gain, and is therefore a wake-up call. "Because the risks associated with obesity are now known," Davanzo points out. "An inadequate diet, combined with poor physical activity, in fact leads to excess weight that ends up negatively affecting the health of the cardiovascular system, increases the risk of developing diabetes, and also compromises the success of social interactions".
The Good Practices for Nutrition and Physical Activity in Preschool Age, carried out by the Unit for Research on Health Services and International Health of Trieste, suggest that food choices be varied as much as possible to avoid the risk of nutritional imbalances. , but also to help children discover and appreciate new flavors.
Essentially, the team of experts recommends eating 3 servings of fruit and 2 of vegetables every day, to make sure that every meal has a portion of carbohydrates (pasta, laugh or pan) and only one protein food, to vary the type of cereals (wheat, barley, oats, spelled), also consuming wholemeal ones. It also suggests: increasing the consumption of fruit (and vegetables) and, to succeed, trying to give the child fruit that is easy to peel (clementines, bananas), or that do not peel (strawberries, cherries, apricots, plums ...); moderate the consumption of fats, and prefer those of vegetable origin (better extra virgin olive oil than butter); decrease the consumption of salt, simple sugars and the consumption of proteins (the advice is valid for the whole family); alternate protein sources (animal and vegetable), consuming fish at least 2-3 times a week (the blue and small size fish are excellent). And finally, encourage the consumption of water (on the contrary limiting the intake of sugary drinks), even more so when it is hot and during intense physical activity.
It is also a good habit to eat meals at regular times, sitting at the table all together, away from the TV screens. Don't use food as a punishment, reward, consolation, or pastime. Prefer cooking in steam, in foil, on the plate, in a pressure cooker that allow you to season foods with raw oil. And finally, don't underestimate that good eating habits must go hand in hand with regular physical activity to promote health. "Children's day - recommends Giulini Neri - must not be punctuated by video games or TV, because the war on extra kilos, from childhood, begins with the promotion of correct lifestyles, therefore including a reduction in the time spent in front of it. to the small screen ".
A 4-6 year old child needs around 1200-1300 calories throughout the day and all nutrients, with a 10-15% protein, 30% fat and 55-60% carbohydrate intake. Individual needs vary according to height and physical activity.
- Fruits and vegetables they promote the functioning of the intestine and provide vitamins and mineral salts, they also contain water, so consuming them regularly helps to maintain the water balance. Portions of about 100 grams are recommended for children of this age group.
- Pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, barley, polenta are sources of carbohydrates (sugars) in the form of starch, fiber (if they are whole), B vitamins, magnesium. And carbohydrates provide essential energy to tackle the small, big tasks of the day. Portions of 40-50 grams are recommended as an indication.
- Fish, legumes, meat, eggs, provide proteins, which are the essential building blocks that make up organs and tissues of our body, iron and vitamins of group B. Indicatively we recommend 60 grams of meat / fish, 20 grams of legumes (dry) and 1 egg twice a week.
- Latte and derivatives are important for the formation of bones and teeth: they contain calcium, proteins, vitamins D, A, B2 and phosphorus. For children of 4-6 years we recommend two portions of dairy products a day, i.e. a cup of milk, a jar of yogurt, a slice of cheese, 50/100 grams of ricotta.
- As regards the grassi, 2-4 teaspoons of oil per day are sufficient. But in addition to the fats used for seasoning, pay attention to those present in packaged foods. Better to avoid foods that contain trans hydrogenated fats (harmful to our body) and palm and coconut oil (rich in saturated fats). This is why it is important to read the labels.
- 4 6-years
- 3-5 children years