In today’s society, childhood nutrition is challenging and requires significant attention and consideration. Parents, teachers, physicians, nutritionists, and other experts must develop methods to better manage nutritional needs for children in schools and in the home environment. Many outside influences have had a critical impact on children’s nutrition, including the media, websites, fast food restaurants, and peer groups. Furthermore, the types of food choices that are available and are prominent in the minds of children are often less than nutritious, such as processed foods. It is imperative to consider the different elements of this problem and how to alleviate some of these concerns and improve nutritional outcomes for young children so that their health and wellbeing are improved over time.
Food is portrayed in many different ways and this impacts children’s food preferences accordingly. Peer influences are particularly challenging because many children consume the same types of foods, even if they are unhealthy (Drummond and Brefere). These influences challenge children’s nutritional habits and often lead to negative outcomes and poor health (Drummond and Brefere). With the continued popularity of fast foods and processed foods, it is not surprising that many children have a tendency to seek less than healthy food options on a regular basis (Drummond and Brefere). Therefore, it is necessary to determine how to strike a balance in children’s diets and support a more nutritious diet approach (Drummond and Brefere). This process supports the development of new approaches to improve children’s nutritional habits and the availability of improved food choices on a consistent basis (Drummond and Brefere).
One of the most significant challenges in improving children’s nutrition is the availability of healthy food items for consumption. It is important to educate children regarding methods to improve their nutrition and to make smarter food choices. Many communities have turned to “buy local” programs as a means of improving nutrition for children through the purchase of local fresh ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables (INOVA). These alternatives are increasingly available in local communities through farmers markets and local farms; therefore, schools and other groups have greater access to these options (INOVA). According to the Buy Fresh Buy Local website, “Knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown or raised enables you to choose safe food from farmers who avoid or reduce their use of chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified seed in their operations. Buy food from local farmers you trust… Local food doesn’t have to travel far. This reduces carbon dioxide emissions and packing materials. Buying local food also helps to make farming more profitable and selling farmland for development less attractive” (FoodRoutes Network). This method of food purchase will provide young children with the level of nutrition that is required to meet their growth and development needs, while also protecting the environment (FoodRoutes Network). These resources support the ability to enhance children’s nutrition to achieve improved outcomes in their diets and overall health.
For children, there are recommended guidelines in place which support optimal growth and development at all stages. These guidelines enable children to achieve the optimal level of growth and nutrition, including the recommended allowances for fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains (Mayo Clinic). It is necessary for nutrition-based approaches for children to be reasonable and cost effective so that they are more easily accessible and affordable for all children. Many families struggle to make ends meet and are unable to purchase nutritious foods for their children. Therefore, assistance programs and school meal alternatives provide additional support for the development of improved nutrition for many children. In other families, however, there is a tremendous dependence on fast food choices due to busy schedules and other factors, leaving nutrition as a less than important priority. It is necessary to reverse this non-approach to nutrition and to reconsider this subject in the lives of young children. From a community-based perspective, improved nutrition for young children must be a key priority and a significant presence in schools. Teachers and other employees in schools are able to make a difference in the lives of their students by promoting positive behaviors that will be habit-forming for children. However, access to nutritious food is very limited in many communities. It is expected that resources will be utilized and programs will be established to provide young children with greater access to nutritious foods to improve their health and wellbeing during different critical development stages.
Many young children do not obtain the recommended levels of nutrients that they require for healthy growth and development. There is a tremendous emphasis in the media and in communities in regards to food products, but in many cases, unhealthy fast foods and processed food items take precedence and lead to poor eating habits in many families. It is the responsibility of parents, teachers, and community members to educate children regarding improving their nutrition and to promote modification of their behaviors so that they are able to achieve improved health and wellbeing. Children should be provided with a framework to improve their nutritional intake and habits regarding food choices. This may be accomplished using a number of different factors, including the purchase of fresh produce and other items from local vendors, which are commonly environmentally friendly and less dangerous to the human diet. This is an opportunity to improve children’s health through positive nutritional choices and education in the consumption of nutritious foods.
Drummond, Karen E., and Lisa M. Brefere, 2007. Nutrition for Foodservice and Culinary Professionals. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.
FoodRoutes Network, 2013. “Why buy local?” 2 March 2013: http://foodroutes.org/buy-local-2/why-buy-local-2/
INOVA, 2013. “Buy fresh buy local.” 2 March 2013: http://www.inova.org/inova-in-the-community/buy-fresh-buy-local
Mayo Clinic, 2013. “Nutrition for kids: guidelines for a healthy diet.” 2 March 2013: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nutrition-for-kids/NU00606