A healthy diet, lots of exercise and the ability to cope with stress, for example in conflict situations, are essential building blocks of healthy child development. Research shows that all three factors have a lot to do with each other and influence each other.
A healthy diet forms an important basis for the child’s exercise behaviour: By providing all the important nutrients, it provides the child with the energy it needs for its daily activities, play and exercise.
If a child moves a lot and is active, it converts more energy and therefore needs more of it. The often playful movement naturally regulates the child’s energy intake through a healthy feeling of hunger and satiety. In contrast, too much food intake leads to weight gain and overweight in the long run, the children usually move less and the feeling of stress increases.
A poor supply of nutrients promotes the child’s susceptibility to stress. This means that in certain situations and with demands, for example when he or she is fighting with peers, he or she feels more stressed. Such stress can trigger food from frustration or lead to a loss of appetite. In the area of movement, stress triggers either overactivity or inertia.
The training of endurance, strength and speed under stress would be exactly the right thing. Because physical activity helps to reduce stress symptoms such as restlessness, nervousness and sleep disturbances, which parents often notice even in their youngest children. At the same time, age-appropriate exercise and sufficient relaxation reduce the susceptibility to stress and thus protect children from health problems.
If one of these three building blocks – nutrition, exercise, stress – is positively influenced, this always has an influence on the other aspects. In the interaction of these factors, a balanced diet thus contributes to optimally supporting the health development of your child.
Healthy child nutrition is based on simple rules
Children are usually curious, want to get to know new things and try them out. This also applies to eating. Unknown foods are a wonderful field of activity for both children and parents. Younger children in particular are not yet stuck in their choice of food. A variety of smells, colours, consistencies and tastes arouse curiosity and lead to discovery. Children should therefore be able to try out the delicious variety of healthy foods as early and as often as possible.
At about one year of age, the transition from infant nutrition to family food – i.e. normal food – should be complete. The child can and should now participate in the family meals. If the family diet is balanced and varied, it can cover the toddler’s needs in age-appropriate quantities and preparations.
Calorie counting or elaborate recipes are not necessary. There is also no need for special ready-made products, complementary foods or so-called children’s foods. Rather, only a few simple basic rules need to be observed for a balanced diet:
- Give your child plenty to drink: preferably water or other unsweetened or sugar-free drinks.
- Use plenty of vegetable foods: vegetables, fruit, cereals and cereal products, potatoes.
- Offer only moderate amounts of animal foods, such as meat, sausage, fish, eggs, but also milk and dairy products such as cheese, curd cheese, yogurt.
- Be thrifty with them: Salt, sugar, sweets, snack products and high-fat food. This applies in particular to high-fat products with a high content of saturated fatty acids, such as chocolate cream, chips, flips and the like.
Caution with small round foods
In infancy, the risk of something being swallowed into the windpipe (so-called aspiration risk) is particularly high. Small round foods are most often swallowed in the windpipe.
Therefore, do not give your child nuts, almonds, seeds, berries, legumes and other hard food pieces the size of a peanut.
For this reason, your child should not be given raw root vegetables, fish with bones, hard lozenges or chewing gum.