|A Healthy Diet |
HEALTH PROBLEMS RELATED TO DIET
At least six health
problems have been proven to relate to diet. The first four problems
occur in children as well as in adults. The last two occur primarily
- Iron deficiency anemia
This type of anemia
usually occurs between 6 months and 2 years of age. The main
symptoms are fatigue and delayed motor development. Iron
deficiency anemia can also cause behavioral symptoms such as
restlessness, irritability, and poor attention span.
Obesity is one of the
most common nutritional problems in this country. Obesity is also
one of the most important contributing factors in heart disease,
hypertension, and some cancers.
- Tooth decay
Tooth decay is more
likely if a child has a lot of sugar in his diet. (Poor
toothbrushing habits also contribute to tooth decay.)
- Intestinal symptoms
Too little fiber in
the diet can cause intestinal problems such as constipation,
abdominal discomfort, appendicitis, gallstones, and some
- Coronary artery disease
A lot of animal fat
(especially cholesterol) in the diet contributes to coronary
artery disease. This disease hardly exists in poor countries where
the population subsists on low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets. It is
also less common among vegetarians.
- High blood pressure
High blood pressure
has been associated with an increased amount of salt or a
decreased amount of calcium in the diet of some susceptible
persons. Most people, however, get rid of extra salt through their
kidneys and don't develop hypertension.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A HEALTHY DIET
- Learn the four basic food groups:
- milk products: milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream
- meat/eggs: red meats, poultry, fish, and eggs
- grains: breads, cereals, rice, pasta, and so forth
- fruits/vegetables; may be consumed as solids or juices.
Twenty percent of a
healthy diet should consist of milk, meat and eggs, and 80 percent
should be vegetables, fruits, and grains. (Fiber is found in
grains, fruits, and vegetables.) This is similar to the
recommendations that children receive 55 percent of their calories
from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fats, and 15 percent from
- Eat three meals a day.
essential for children. Skipping breakfast can compromise
performance at school. For dieters, skipping breakfast usually
doesn't lead to weight loss. All meals should contain fruits or
vegetables, as well as grains. Meat or milk should be included in
two of the meals.
Eating snacks is
largely a habit. Snacks are unnecessary for good nutrition but
harmless unless your child is overweight. If your child likes
snacks (and most children do), encourage fruits, vegetables, and
grains, but don't give them close to mealtime.
- Decrease the amount of fat (meat and milk products)
in the diet.
excessive amounts of meat and dairy products. Although cholesterol
is important for rapid growth, children over age 2 should consume
it in moderation (not eliminate it).
To decrease the
amount of fat in the diet, follow these guidelines:
- Increase the amount of fruits, vegetables, and
grains in the diet.
- Children should consume at least five servings of fruits and
vegetables per day. (Fifty percent of American children eat only
one fruit or vegetable per day.)
- Try to serve a fruit at every meal.
- Offer fruits as dessert and snacks.
- Start every day with a glass of fruit juice. (Caution: limit
fruit juices to 2 cups per day to prevent diarrhea.)
- Since fruits and vegetables are interchangeable, don't force
children to eat vegetables they don't like.
- When making casseroles, increase the amount of vegetables
and decrease the amount of meat.
- Serve more soups.
- Encourage more cereals for breakfast.
- Use more whole-grain bread in making sandwiches.
- Include an adequate amount of iron in the diet.
Throughout our lives
we need adequate iron in our diets to prevent anemia. Everyone
should know which foods are good sources of iron. Red meats, fish,
and poultry are best. One serving per day of these foods will
provide adequate iron. Although liver is a good source of iron, it
contains 16 times more cholesterol than beef and should be
avoided. For young children who refuse meats in general, use
low-fat luncheon meats as a meat source. Adequate iron is also
found in iron-enriched cereals, beans of all types, peanut butter,
raisins, prune juice, sweet potatoes, spinach, and egg yolks. The
iron in these foods is better absorbed if the meal also contains
fruit juice or meat.
- Avoid excessive salt.
Salt is not usually
harmful for people without high blood pressure. However, to
discourage a taste for excessive salt in infants do not add it to
their foods. Remove the salt shaker from the dinner table. Use
other herbs and spices instead of salt. Purchase salty foods such
as potato chips and pretzels sparingly.
- Avoid excessive pure sugars.
Sweets are not bad,
but they should be eaten in moderation. Most humans are born with
a "sweet tooth." They seek out and enjoy candy, soft drinks, and
desserts. The main side effect of eating candy is tooth decay if
the teeth are not brushed afterward. Eating food with a lot of
sugar ("a sugar binge") can cause, 2 or 3 hours later, jitters,
sweating, dizziness, sleepiness, and intense hunger. This
temporary reaction is not harmful and can be relieved by eating
some food. A love of sweets is not related to obesity (if the
total calories per day are normal) or hyperactivity. A high amount
of sugar in the diet has not been correlated with coronary artery
disease or cancer.
- Know what to eat before exercise.
Eating meat does not
improve athletic performance. The best foods to consume before
prolonged exercise are complex carbohydrates. These include bread,
pasta (noodles), potatoes, and rice. These should be consumed 3 to
4 hours before the athletic event so they have passed out of the
continues to be important up to the time of participation and
every 20 to 30 minutes during the