Nutrition myths are rampant and they’re not serving anyone well. Here are 5 to kick to the curb in the new year!
Open up your favorite device and you won’t have a hard time finding attention-grabbing headlines about nutrition.
Whether it’s what you should “never feed your kids” or the ever-intriguing “add this one food to your family’s plate”, the truth is that nutrition shouldn’t be complicated. It also shouldn’t be hard to decipher what’s real and what’s not.
As we dive into a brand new year together, we want to take some of the pressure off of you when it comes to how you’re approaching nutrition for your kids.
Below are 5 nutrition myths we suggest leaving in the past.
1. Sweets and treats are bad.
Sweets are culturally put onto a pedestal – and they need to be taken off of it. Rather than saving treats for special occasions or using them as rewards, we recommend incorporating them (in moderation) as a normal part of meals and snacks. This helps take the “wow factor” out of them.
When sweets are vilified or made to be extra special, this can lead to the opposite effect of what you want, with kids sneaking them or ultimately overeating sweets. It can also breed feelings of shame associated with enjoying sweets.
Instead, you could incorporate a cookie with a piece of fruit for a snack, or toss some chocolate chips on a lunch plate. Not every day or every meal, of course, but enough to take them off their pedestal.
For more on this topic, see these posts:
- Navigating Weight and Body Image With Your Child
- When Can Babies Have Sugar? And Other Questions About Sugar and Kids
- How We Incorporate Sweets and Treats in a Healthy Way
2. Your kids need to “clean their plate”.
Many of us grew up as striving members of the clean-your-plate-club. But the fact is that making kids finish everything in front of them doesn’t promote intuitive eating skills or a healthy relationship with food. Instead, it’s saying to ignore their hunger-fullness cues and simply eat everything given to them.
We get it – it’s hard to prepare meals and watch your kids poke at things and even complain about what you’ve made. But there are other ways to encourage your kiddos to try new things AND support their ability to listen to their bodies.
See these posts:
- Deconstructed Meals: How to Serve Complex Meals in Simple Ways
- Mindfulness Activities for Kids
- How to Make Healthy Food Taste Good to Kids: 6 Easy Flavor Enhancers
- Two Tips for Meal Planning with Selective Eaters
3. Hiding veggies is the best way to optimize your child’s intake.
It’s tempting to start grinding broccoli into everything when your child refuses to even try it. Unfortunately, even if this gets broccoli into their bellies in the short-term, it’s not helping them in the long run. It also demonizes veggies and promotes dishonesty.
Instead, we recommend being transparent about incorporating veggies into meals and snacks. Add veggies to food in interesting ways, like riced cauliflower in oatmeal or pureed carrots into tomato sauce. Have your kids help you make it – and give honest answers about what’s in their food when they ask.
Continue to offer veggies in their natural state regularly. This helps build exposure and normalize them as part of a healthy diet. It may take many, many exposures… but, your child will eventually determine whether they actually like them or not (without the pressure).
Food play can also help with vegetable acceptance. See our post 15 Food Play Ideas for Picky Eaters for help.
4. Your kids need all the supplements.
Does your child need supplements if they follow a predominantly or fully plant-based diet? Yes. We recommend vitamin B12 for plant-based kiddos as a non-negotiable. For most kids, we also suggest vitamin D, DHA (particularly for kids under 2 who don’t consume fish), and iodine (especially if your family doesn’t use iodized salt).
We recommend working with your pediatrician and/or dietitian to determine what makes the most sense.
What does your child NOT need?
- General probiotics (certain strains may be beneficial for temporary and targeted purposes)
- Brain boosters
- Immune boosters
- Protein powder
- Electrolyte packets
5. All packaged and processed foods should be avoided.
The reality is that “processed” is a broader term than we’ve been led to believe. By definition, processed foods are any food that has been altered from its natural form, even by way of chopping, slicing, or drying. That means even things like cubed melons are technically processed.
We like to use the term “ultra-processed” instead, to describe foods that have been super-refined from their natural state to create less healthy items that tend to be high in added sugar and sodium and low in actual nutrition.
Packaged foods have also been lumped together unfairly. In fact, you’ll always find some packaged foods in our households, because the truth is that they make life easier. Packaged doesn’t always equate to unhealthy, either.
Some of our go-to packaged foods include dried veggies, roasted chickpeas, applesauce, fruit pouches, hummus, and guacamole. Notice that these types of snack foods are generally low in added sugar and have something to offer in the way of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
Don’t let nutrition myths deter you or make you overthink how you feed your kids. We’re wishing you a healthy and joyful eating experience this year (and all the years to come)!
Chime In: What other nutrition myths have you had to think twice about? Share them below!
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