Knowing the right foods to give your child during the early childhood period is really important, but with ‘experts’ giving conflicting advice it is often difficult to understand just what is the right thing to do. This is not helped by the endless fads for ‘superfoods’ that are the next all-encompassing answer, but which often turn out to be something else entirely. We all want the best for our children, so the correct advice at this important period is incredibly important, which is why the FDA guidelines for nutrition are such a help for all parents.
The reason this advice is so useful is that it is not based on food fads or trends, but on scientific research. The comprehensive guidelines can help any parent understand the best diets for their children to give the heathiest start in life, and with regular updates as our knowledge of the effects of food grows. The most recent major change in recommendations regarding food consumption for both women during pregnancy and for the early childhood period is in relation to fish consumption.
The new guidelines for the first time suggest a minimum amount of low mercury fish in the diet, and while recommendations have always been that fish is a good food source at this time, the introduction of minimum amounts is significant. For children, the FDA recommends that they should have suitable fish in their meals three times a week, and it is really worthwhile to understand the reasoning they give for this, it helps us as parents to understand what we are doing where food is concerned.
Fish is a great source of high quality protein, with good levels of vitamins and minerals, and especially omega-3 fatty acids, which are important to development, while remaining low in saturated fats making fish a really healthy meal in general. However, there are some fish types that have higher levels of mercury, something they ingest naturally, than others, and restricting fish intake to low mercury fish is an important part of the healthy diet. The good news is that the majority of fish readily available in stores is of the low mercury type, including Shrimp, Pollock, Salmon, canned Light Tuna, Tilapia, Catfish and Cod. It is important to ensure that light tuna is used as this is the low mercury Tuna that available easily, others can be significantly higher in mercury levels.
With such a variety of healthy, low mercury fish, providing a varied diet that still provides all the nutrients, protein and carbs young children need is much easier than you would think, and that is not the only benefit. Following the FDA recommendations has also taken some of the worry out of food for many parents, with clear and unbiased advice available, the concern about which is the right food and what quantities, while never completely removed, is much less, and food shopping for early childhood becomes a much less stressful experience as a result. Uncertainty when it comes to meeting your child’s needs is perhaps the worst situation for any parent during those important first few months, and with so much advertising and promotional material it can be hard to know where to turn for sensible food guidance, but the FDA approach can help reduce that uncertainty and give peace of mind for any parent.
These high quality recommendations can form the basis for building a healthy and appropriate diet for early childhood, and the impartial, scientific basis for them makes this the most reliable source of information. The FDA are not trying to sell us the latest food product, they are providing us with the advice we need, and that makes it invaluable.