Published on August 17, 2021.
Healthy eating habits start young
Parenthood is a juggling act. Running a household, scheduling kids’ activities, managing a job plus all the other many responsibilities of adult life – it’s no surprise that fitting good nutrition in among everything else can be a challenge!
Let’s start with the basics: children benefit from a balanced diet that includes vegetables and fruit, whole grain products, and protein foods – without too much sugar, processed foods or unhealthy fats. A recent report by Health Canada stated reported research suggesting that the average total sugar intake from food and beverages for children aged 2-8 years was 101 g/day (23 teaspoons), and for children aged 9-18 years was 115 g (27 teaspoons), well above the recommended 25g a day or less. Given that sugar is associated with a range of health issues – from poor oral hygiene to increased cardiovascular health risk and obesity – cutting back on sweetened drinks and other sweet treats is a key step in ensuring your kids are eating a balanced diet.
As a rule of thumb, the best foods are whole, fresh and unprocessed—fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and meats. Creating a healthy routine makes it easier for everyone - eating 3 meals a day and 1 to 3 snacks (morning, afternoon and before bed – growing is hungry work!) has been recommended. Your own parents probably told you that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Turns out they weren’t wrong! A healthy breakfast was associated with better grades and higher test scores. Breakfast may have a positive effect in on-task behavior in the classroom. A sliced apple on toast with peanut butter, oatmeal with chopped fruit on top, or scrambled eggs with whole grain toast and fruit are examples of healthy breakfast options that kids love.
In addition to eating a balanced diet, there are specific nutrients that are crucial for brain and nerve development. Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids that children need for their bodies to work properly – and since the human body can’t produce omega-3 on it’s own, it’s important to make the right foods part of their diet. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a plant-based omega-3 found in green leafy vegetables, seaweed, and some nuts and seeds. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that come from marine-based sources, like fish and algae. DHA is a particularly important omega-3 fatty acid for brain development in children, where it’s found in high concentrations.
The good news is that supplements can make it easier for your child to get their daily omega-3. Nutrasea Kids and NutraVege Kids are tasty omega-3 supplements that are both easily mixed into kid-friendly staples such as yogurt, salad dressing or a smoothie. Kids love the flavour – don’t worry, despite the delicious taste they’re naturally flavoured with no additional sugar!
In addition to omega-3, your school age child should be getting plenty of calcium, vitamin D, fiber, and iron for optimal cognitive development. Dairy products or calcium-fortified beverages help boost calcium intake, for example; and while our bodies naturally produce vitamin D from sunshine, wild-caught fish like mackeral, salmon and tuna, or fortified foods can support your child’s vitamin D levels. NutraSea Kids and NutraVege Kids are also a source of Vitamin D, with 500 IU per serving. If you suspect your child isn’t getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and food, consider speaking with your health care provider about taking a supplement. There are two types of vitamin D supplements. They are vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Both types are good for bone health. While your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium, you do not need to take vitamin D at the same time as a calcium supplement. 
The bottom line is that nutrition can influence cognitive development in children, and providing the right diet can set them on a path of lifelong health and wellness . Your picky 8-year old, or your argumentative teen, might not appreciate all the work you’re doing to feed them healthy nutritious meals but trust us – one day they’ll thank you!
If you need help making healthy meal plans or are wondering if your children are getting adequate nutrition, consult your healthcare provider or dietician.
 Canada’s Dietary Guidelines. 2021 [cited May 25th 2021]; Available from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2019001/article/00002-eng.htm https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/guidelines/section-1-foundation-healthy-eating/
 Statistics Canada. 2021 [cited May 25th 2021]; Available from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2019001/article/00002-eng.htm
 Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children. Geneva: World Health
 American Heart Association. Vos et al. Added Sugars and Cardiovascular Disease
Risk in Children 2017 [cited April 21st 2021]; Available from: http://ahajournals.org
 Canada’s Food Guide. 2021 [cited May 25th 2021]; Available from: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/
 Adolphus A, Lawton C L and Dye L. The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 2013 Aug. 8
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 Marszalek J R and Lodish H F. Docosahexaenoic Acid, Fatty-Interacting Proteins, and Nueronal Function: Breastmilk and Fish are Good For You. Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology. 2005 July 1
 Cool foods only – heat lowers the potency of EPA and DHA.
 Bryan et al. Nutrients for Cognitive Development in School-aged Children. Nutrition Reviews, Vol. 62, No. 8 295-306. 2004 August
 National Institutes of Health. 2021 [cited May 25th 2021]; Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
 National Osteoporosis Foundation. 2018 [cited May 25th 2021]; Available from: https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/calciumvitamin-d/
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