3 common nutrition mistakes parents make! Learn the biggest nutrition mistakes many plant-based families experience and understand how to prevent or reverse them in yours.
We’re all just trying to do the best we can.
Whether your family is new to a predominantly plant-based lifestyle, or you’re just new to having little ones outside the womb, it’s very common to misstep when it comes to early nutrition.
This is largely because there are so many different influences on parents today, and our pediatricians are rarely knowledgeable enough in nutrition to identify and help some of these mistakes.
With that being said, here are 3 common nutrition mistakes we have seen many parents make, and how to fix them in your family.
1. Not providing enough fat-rich foods.
There’s a societal fear around fats, particularly in Western culture, that still remains from a couple of decades ago.
However, not only is the right kind of fat good for us (yes, adults and kids), but it’s a critical nutrient for healthy growth and development in early childhood.
While the recommended intake of fat is 20-35% of calories for adults, fat needs for kids are higher.
From ages 1-3 years, kids should get 30-40% of calories from fat. When kids reach age 4+, they should get around 25-35% of calories from fat in their diet.
HOW TO FIX IT: Add fat to every meal! Some examples include stirring nut or seed butter into oatmeal, slathering them onto waffles, toast, and pancakes, or serving them as a dip alongside fruit. You can also cook veggies in extra virgin olive oil, drizzle avocado oil over salad or steamed broccoli, and use avocados on toast, burritos, taco soup, sandwiches and wraps, in homemade guacamole or other dips, and on the side.
2. Not providing enough calorie-dense foods.
Kids need more calories proportionally to their body weight compared to adults. And while fruits and veggies are awesome, they’re also lower in calories than other protein and fat-rich foods.
This doesn’t mean stopping offering fruits and veggies. This means that it’s important to find other ways to add more calories to your child’s diet.
Getting enough calories provides energy for everyday activities as well as fuel for proper growth and development of the brain and body.
HOW TO FIX IT: Include fruits and veggies, but also prioritize protein and fat-rich foods that are more calorically dense. For instance, a variety of whole grains (oats, quinoa, brown rice, farro, millet, 100% whole wheat bread), legumes (beans, peas, soy, lentils), nuts, and seeds.
3. Not providing enough iron-rich foods.
The iron needs of children are much higher proportionally compared to adults, given their smaller body size, high activity level, and high degree of growth they’re undergoing in early life.
For example, a 1-3-year-old child requires 7 mg of iron per day while an adult male needs 8 mg (just 1 mg more!).
HOW TO FIX IT: Include iron-rich foods at every meal. These just so happen to be the same as those calorically-dense foods (like grains and legumes). Pair them with good sources of vitamin C to maximize iron absorption, like broccoli, strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
Some of our favorite combos include oats and berries, legume-based macaroni and “trees”, lentil tacos with a squirt of lime juice, fortified O’s cereal and oranges, tofu and bell peppers, and roasted potatoes (a surprising source of C!) and bean burgers.
While those are the 3 common nutrition mistakes parents make, it doesn’t mean you’re making them! What’s most important is to check-in with what you’re currently doing and see where improvements might be a good idea. Consider the tips above and incorporate where needed!
Chime In: Are there places in your child’s diet where these tips may make sense?
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