Every mom can relate to the same questions: what's for dinner? What about for breakfast, lunch, and snacks? There's always a gap between healthy food and the stuff that children are really interested in eating, which makes it even tougher to meal plan and figure out what to put on the table.
These days, healthy eating is a pretty complicated subject and one that is very confusing as well. There is a lot of talk about food restrictions, and moms and experts often mention foods that are common allergens. People wonder if they should feed their kids gluten or dairy or eggs since these are things that tend to create problems for some, such as stomachaches, headaches, brain fog, or other symptoms that aren't much fun at all. But especially if some kids are picky eaters, limiting what they have on their plate doesn't seem like the best idea. And moms are busy enough, right?
While some advice about what kids should eat is warranted and should be paid careful attention to, there are some things that aren't helpful at all. Here are 10 things that moms should listen to when it comes to food restrictions, and 10 things that she should definitely ignore.
First, let's look at 10 things that moms should ignore...
Should kids eat eggs? This is a question that a lot of moms are asking because there seems to be a lot of advice on this topic.
People say eggs are a common allergen (along with dairy, etc.) but, according to Mom.me, eating eggs could make kids taller. As the website says, "Many pediatricians recommend waiting a full year before incorporating egg whites into a child's [eating plan] to avoid to severe allergic reactions, but research in the June edition of Pediatrics suggests children as young as 6 months old may develop faster when given one egg daily."
Moms should ignore anyone who says that children shouldn't eat eggs (unless it's clear that there are symptoms from eating eggs, of course).
Mom.me also says that kids should drink dairy if they are fine with it and that this is another food restriction that all moms don't need to listen to.
It's interesting that a lot of people wonder if many children are allergic to dairy and need to cut it out since milk has been associated with children for so long. We assume that giving kids a glass of milk is a good idea. They need calcium and other nutrients, right? Isn't that what we've been told since forever? Kids do need calcium, and if everything seems cool, then there's no reason for all children to avoid dairy.
Should kids go vegan? People might say that moms can give their kids supplements to make up for anything lost from not eating animal products, but that doesn't seem like the best idea.
As Independent.co.uk says, "According to [expert] Judy Moore, raising a vegan child can lead to nutrient deficiencies, inadequate energy intake and faltering growth. The first year of life is one of the most important developmental periods for a child, explains pediatric [medical professional] Ana Kristina Skrapac." The pro continued that vegans often don't get enough iodine, B12, or iron.
If moms hear that kids should follow a vegan way of eating, this is also advice that they can ignore. They could be missing out on key nutrients for sure.
These days, it seems like everyone is gluten-free. It can be tough for moms to know whether their children should, be too.
This is advice that moms should ignore because there is no good reason for kids to avoid gluten (unless there is an allergy). According to Health.Harvard.edu, "It’s puzzling because in the vast majority of cases it isn’t necessary — and it’s worrisome because, although parents are doing it because they think it’s healthy, a gluten-free [eating plan] can be very unhealthy for children." Why? Because kids should eat whole grains: "Whole grains that contain gluten have lots of crucial nutrients — including B vitamins, antioxidants, iron, selenium, and magnesium."
Another piece of nutrition advice that moms hear on a regular basis is to only purchase organic food. It can feel like we're not doing all that we can for our children if we're not doing this. How could we possibly buy conventional produce?!
According to Parents.com, it's fine for moms to buy non-organic produce. As the website says, "It's much more important to buy and eat fruits and vegetables than whether they are organic or conventional. Researchers haven't found evidence that organic produce is healthier in terms of nutrition or that eating organic is better for long-term health. What IS known for sure: [Eating plans] rich in fruits and vegetables are good for everyone." That's a relief to hear, especially since organic food is often much more expensive.
If we listen to the general advice that we hear about dessert, we would think that we can never give our kids sugar. But the truth is that it's okay to give our kids treats every once in a while.
As FamilyDoctor.org says, "Don’t ban sweets. Saying your child can’t have doughnuts or cake ever again can create cravings. When they do have a sweet treat, they tend to overindulge. Just make these kinds of foods a special treat."
This is great advice and it's easy for moms to follow, too. We all know that it's not realistic to never eat any sugar since desserts are so delicious and so much fun to eat.
Moms often hear that kids shouldn't eat soy or that no one of any age should eat soy. Along with foods like wheat and dairy, soy is something that has come under fire.
As Stay At Home Mum says, it's actually okay for kids to eat soy: "For some reason in recent years, soy products have copped a ... beating in the public eye, particularly in terms of whether they should be given to children. Foods like tofu, soy milk, edamame and other soy-based foods are actually totally ok for kids, in moderation, and in the case of girls, they might actually reduce their [health problem] risk."
We might think that kids should avoid nuts, but according to Parents.com, it's actually okay for children to eat this food.
As the website explains, "According to the AAP, you can feed your baby common allergens like fish, eggs, and nuts when starting solids because there's no evidence that avoiding them prevents allergies (it's always smart to talk to your child's pediatrician first)."
Moms can breathe a big sigh of relief and remember this when it seems like there is a lot of confusing nutrition advice out there. Nuts are a really great healthy snack, especially with some fruit. Kids love the combo of peanut butter and banana.
Are we wondering if our children should eat low-carb? The truth is that this isn't something that our kids need to follow at all.
Eatright.org says, "In recent years, several [eating] fads have recommended the reduction, or even elimination, of carbohydrates from our every day [eating]. But are such 'low carb' [plans] good for a child? While a reduction of certain types of carbohydrates , such as added sugars, may be beneficial for our children’s growing bodies, removing all carbohydrates are not."
Children need carbs. This is good news for us because chances are, we don't want to go low carb, either, and we want to serve dinners that include some healthy carbs.
Parents.com explains that it's totally cool for kids to eat whole dairy: "Some pediatricians may advise serving part-skim milk and yogurt depending on the child's health history. But otherwise, my advice is to buy the kind of dairy your kids like and will eat and drink so they're sure to get the calcium, vitamin D, protein, and other nutrients they need."
It's a relief to hear that moms can ignore these pieces of nutrition advice regarding food restriction... and that there are so many foods that most children are just fine eating. That makes dinnertime a little bit easier, right?
And here are the 10 food restrictions mom should be enforcing...
As nutritionist Jennifer Glockner writes for Mind Body Green, kids should eat whole grains: "And don’t forget about whole grains for energy. I recommend that a quarter of each plate also include whole grains like a whole wheat tortilla, bread, pita, oats, quinoa, or barley."
Carbs are important for kids since they are an energy source, and it's a good idea for moms to serve whole grains instead of refined carbs such as white bread or pasta or white rice. The suggestions above are great because moms could make a healthy pizza on a whole wheat tortilla with some cheese and protein and veggies, for example. There are lots of ways to make whole grains delicious.
A bowl of cereal and milk has been a traditional and classic breakfast since forever. We probably ate this as kids and it seems like a simple fix when we're trying to figure out what to serve our own children for this morning meal.
But cereal isn't that healthy and moms should serve their kids a healthier breakfast.
As Parenting.com says, "You need to keep a sharp eye out for sneaky sugar terms that may appear on boxes, such as organic molasses, bee honey, and organic sugar cane, which fool parents into believing that they're healthy cereals. Better breakfast options, like fruit, low-fat yogurt, eggs, and oatmeal, give kids the energy they need."
According to Health24.com, people say that fish is a common allergen for kids, but it's actually healthy. Fish is definitely a food that moms should feed their kids.
If we're thinking that our children wouldn't really like fish (mostly because a lot of people say that it has a "fishy" taste), there are some ways to make it appealing to little ones. We could make a honey mustard sauce or glaze for salmon. We could also make healthier homemade fish sticks by breading cod or another white fish in whole-wheat breadcrumbs or Panko. With a small amount of ketchup or a dipping sauce, kids would be happy (and moms, too).
According to the Cleveland Clinic, toddlers shouldn't eat foods that are in this category: "small, hard foods." These are "nuts, seeds, popcorn, chips, pretzels, raw carrots, and raisins."
It might feel tough to restrict toddlers from eating certain foods, especially things like popcorn and chips which are fun foods and which the rest of the family will enjoy sometimes. But the advice is to avoid these foods because they could be difficult for toddlers to swallow properly and it could lead to some problems. It seems like it's okay to wait until a kid is out of the toddler stage to feed them potato chips and the rest of the foods that were mentioned.
According to Healthline, common allergens (dairy, wheat, and eggs) might be okay for some kids but not for others.
Moms should definitely be aware of the symptoms of food allergies so they can see if their children have reactions to eating certain foods. If our daughter is fine with dairy but our son seems to get stomachaches or other symptoms, then we know that she can keep drinking milk but we need to find alternatives for him. Not every kid has food allergies, of course, and needs to have food restrictions. But some might and it's good to keep an eye out for that.
Caring For Kids says that moms shouldn't go for deli and processed meat when selecting food for their kids: "Limit processed meats, such as wieners and luncheon meats, which are also high in fat, sodium (salt), and nitrates (food preservatives)."
While it makes sense to buy deli meat and make kids sandwiches for their lunch, especially when they need to take a lunch to school, it does seem like there are too many unhealthy ingredients in turkey, ham, and the like. Moms could buy a rotisserie chicken from the store and make chicken sandwiches, or use leftovers from the previous night's dinner.
The Cleveland Clinic talks about guidelines from the Heart Association which say that moms shouldn't feed kids sugar before the age of two. The website mentions the advice for kids older than that: "The new guidelines call for less than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for children ages 2 to 18 years. That includes no more than 8 ounces of sugar-sweetened drinks per week."
When it comes to food restrictions, one thing that moms should definitely listen to is cutting back on sugar. While we all love sugar since brownies and chocolate chip cookies are some of the most delicious foods, we know that we feel better when we eat vegetables and other healthy things.
Another thing that moms should listen to? Serving fewer processed foods.
According to The C. Sheet, fruit snacks and Lunchables are in this category. The Lunchables that has ham and cheese, for example, isn't the healthiest: "It has 18 grams of fat and 9 grams of saturated fat — which accounts for 28% of the recommended fat intake and a whopping 45% of recommended saturated fat intake for the entire day."
This means serving fewer chips, crackers, candy, or any snacks or food that comes in a package or box. While these are foods that kids definitely love, moms know that there are healthier choices, like fruit and yogurt.
According to Parenting.com, moms should pick out products that don't have a lot of sodium: "Sodium can lead to high [BP] even in children."
This is something else that moms should listen to when it comes to food restrictions for children. It's easy to pick up the same products, such as jars of tomato sauce or crackers, that we have been buying for years now. But if we make it a point to watch the salt content of what our kids are eating, we'll get into the habit of reading labels on products at the supermarket more carefully. It'll become second nature and we'll make sure that we're buying low-sodium foods.
What do little ones like to drink? It's fruit juice, right? Whether our kids prefer apple or orange, it's true that they would rather drink this than anything else.
Of course, we also know that fruit juice has a lot of sugar. This is why Parenting.com advises parents not to give fruit juice on a regular basis: "Some argue that the drinks have great nutritional value because they can be rich in vitamins, but you're better off giving your child fresh fruit to eat, which also contains fiber that is lost in the juicing process."
Moms can offer kids water or milk instead.
Sources: Health.clevelandclinic.org, Mindbodygreen.com, Parenting.com, Health24.com, Caringforkids.cps.ca, Mom.me, Independent.co.uk, Health.harvard.edu, Familydoctor.org, Stayathomemum.com.au, Healthline.com, Eatright.org, Parents.com