April 4, 2016

4 Common Misconceptions about Childhood Nutrition and Health

There are an amazing amount of myths about children and nutrition. Some beliefs are learned by our economically driven food industry while others are formed by our current cultural norms. Being a good role model is paramount in today's world of rising chronic disease and obesity. Here are a few common myths that are frequently expressed by parents.

Myth #1: My child is optimally nourished because my pediatrician tells me he is plotting a steady curve on his growth chart

Truth- Just because a child is steadily plotting on his or her growth chart does not mean that he is biologically healthy and nutritionally sound. Growth by itself does not designate a strong immune system, a well functioning brain, or a healthy digestive system. For example, a steadily growing child who suffers anxiety and headaches could be missing out on key nutrients like zinc and iron or could have sensitivity to foods like wheat or dairy. We oftentimes forget there is no greater time for good nourishment than during childhood, especially puberty, when cells are rapidly dividing, replicating and building new bone in an effort to keep up with the growing needs of young minds and bodies.

Myth #2: My child takes a multivitamin so they are nutritionally "covered" from their nutrient depleted diet of bread, meat, cheese, yogurt, pasta, juice and soda.

Truth - There's no doubt that a daily multivitamin is good health insurance for children. However, the contents of a multivitamin represent only a small fraction of the important nutritional components found in plant foods. Taking a multivitamin is a good step in the right direction, but it's no substitute for the real thing.

Myth #3: Food has no impact on my child's mood, headaches, attention or depression.

Truth - Latest scientific research clearly tells us that there is a direct correlation to a healthy gut microbiome (intestinal organisms) and a wide variety of ailments such as allergies, ADHD, cancer, mood disorders, obesity, immunity, mind fog, attention and depression just to name a few. The #1 factor related to the health and diversity of the gut microbiome is the food we eat. By eliminating foods like sugar and refined flour products and replacing them with more vegetables and fiber will change your inner ecology. Some excellent brain maker foods include leafy greens, garlic, onions, jicama, artichoke, avocado, cruciferous vegetables, sauerkraut, fermented foods, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, ghee, ground flax and chia seeds.

Myth #4: Fruit juice is a healthy choice for my child.

Truth - You better think twice if you think you are doing your child a favor by pouring her a glass of store bought juice each morning. Since juice is made by stripping fruit of its skin, pulp, flesh and other fibrous parts, its sugar is absorbed quickly and creates a high sugar impact fructose bomb in our body. This is very much akin to soda. Both juice and soda have between 8-12 tsp of sugar per 12 oz serving and deliver no nutritional benefits. Furthermore, most vitamins and phytochemicals found in fruit are lost through the heating and processing of juice. A few synthetic vitamins are added back at the end of processing but the result is nothing like eating the fruit whole. Better alternatives are to offer your child water, hot or cold unsweetened tea or no more than 4oz of fresh squeezed juice from home.


Nicole Magryta, RD, MBA