7 Popular Kid Nutrition Myths Debunked
Are you challenged by what to feed your kids? Not sure what’s good or bad for their health? Feeling some “mom guilt” about your child’s eating habits? You’re not alone. It’s difficult as a parent to sift through all the health information that constantly bombards you. There are many common nutrition misperceptions, many of which are common myths that can be busted.
7 Nutrition Myths Explained
Myth 1: Your child will starve if they skip a meal.
Myth Busted: Your child won’t starve; they just might get a bit cranky.
Instead: Some kids aren’t hungry in the early morning hours. If they barely touch breakfast, chances are they’ll make up for it later. If you’re still concerned, ask your kids to come up with a list of nutritious breakfast options. Keep it on the fridge, and let them choose what they’ll eat for breakfast the night before. Keep portions small. Remember that kids don’t need adult-sized meals.
Myth 2: All kids will dislike vegetables.
Myth Busted: Some kids are resistant veggie tasters, and they may have to grow to like veggies, while many kids only like a select few vegetables.
Instead: Pair new vegetables with favorite foods they like. Offer different textures, temperatures, sizes and shapes. You never know which combination your child will love. You can hide veggies, like pureed celery or carrots, in family favorites like salsa or tomato sauce. Be aware of the messages you are sending, too. Always eat your own vegetables at the dinner table.
Tip: Get kids involved in gardening! It will help them appreciate where food comes from, and they’ll learn valuable lessons about responsibility.
Myth 3: If you want to get your kids to eat their vegetables, bribe them with dessert.
Myth Busted: This common practice only makes veggies less attractive to your kids.
Instead: Keep offering vegetables to your kids and make sure they see you eating them, but don’t pressure them too much. Try serving bitter vegetables like Brussels sprouts with with a bit of cream cheese or other flavors that your kids already like.
Tip: There are many simple tricks to get kids to eat more veggies—you just have to find which work best for your family, and stay consistent and persistent.
Myth 4: Sugar makes kids hyperactive.
Myth Busted: Maybe? Research, although limited, currently shows no effect of sugar on hyperactivity. However, many high sugar foods also contain food additives like dyes, which can contribute to hyperactivity. Plus, calories from sugar fill your child up, leaving less room for calories that provide good nutrition and promote a healthy brain and body
So even if sugar doesn’t directly cause hyperactivity, it’s not a license to give your kids all the sugar that they want. Let’s not also forget that kids with high sugar intake also have increased risk of dental cavities.
Instead: If your child is hyperactive, evaluate whether his diet reflects the ChooseMyPlate principles. Cut back on sugar and try eliminating food dyes. Also observe the amount of sleep and physical activity he is getting each day. Kids need at least one hour of physical activity each day for optimum health. Feed your children natural (not added) sugars, the kind that occur in fruit. Including some foods with added sugar is fine, but they should be occasional treats rather than diet mainstays.
Myth 5: If your child rejects a food, don’t bother serving it again.
Myth Busted: It is normal for children not to like a food when they are first exposed to it. Many children need to see, feel, taste, but not eat food many times before they finally try and like it. It takes time!
Instead: Be patient and keep serving it. Don’t force, bribe or pressure your child to eat a certain food item. Let him grow to like it at his own pace. If you’re still stuck, try serving new foods next to, or mixed with, a favorite food. Another way to encourage your kids to try new foods is to incorporate different foods into playtime and story time. Read a children’s book I like I Will Never, NOT EVER, Eat a Tomato, then come up with some funny and creative names for new foods and see if this makes your kids willing to try them.
Myth 6: Fruit yogurt is a great way to get your kid to eat more fruit.
Myth Busted: Many commercially-prepared fruit yogurts are high in added sugars without the benefit of fiber. Yogurt is still a very good source of protein, calcium and vitamin D, and I serve it to my family, but it’s difficult for moms to know how much added sugar yogurt contains. It is tricky, since naturally occurring milk sugars and added sugars are combined on the label.
Eight ounces of plain, unsweetened yogurt has about 15 grams of milk sugar, and 8 ounces of plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt has about 6 grams of milk sugar. One teaspoon of table sugar is 4 grams. So when purchasing an 8 ounce yogurt that contains 24 grams of sugar, it has 2 added teaspoons of added table sugar. Do the math to quickly see how much sugar is added to your favorite yogurts, and ask a dietitian for recommend brands. Try to choose yogurts that have no more than a teaspoon of added sugars per serving.
Instead: Add fresh fruit like blueberries, strawberries, bananas or peaches to plain yogurt. You may like it even more than the pre-blended varieties.
Myth 7: Cooking food in the microwave is bad.
Myth Busted: It’s perfectly fine. Cooking in a microwave does not destroy the vitamins or minerals found in fruits in vegetables. However, if you cook produce in water, water-soluble vitamins and minerals will be lost in the cooking water, so steam instead. Using the microwave can also save time and energy. Compared to your oven, a microwave uses up to 80 percent less energy to cook or reheat small portions. This saves money and is environmentally friendly at the same time.
Instead: Use microwave-safe glass or ceramic containers to avoid harmful chemicals from plastics leaching into your food. Cover with wax paper instead of plastic wrap to avoid splashes, or try reusable silicon covers.
This just touches the surface of myths that are out there surrounding your child’s nutrition. If you’re ever unsure about what you’re hearing, search online for information. You can usually trust web addresses that end in .edu, .org or .gov for up-to-date, valuable dietary information since they’re sourced from professional organizations, educational resources and the government.