Children and nutrition: Schnitzel is allowed, Bockwurst also, ZEIT ONLINE


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Also schnitzel and french fries are allowed. Just like falafel, chicken nuggets or bockwurst. “Ultimately, it is important to experience the variety of tastes,” says Büning-Fesel. “So why leave anything out?” According to current knowledge, meat and fish are recommended for children in moderation, a vegetarian diet is harmless as long as parents follow certain tips. Only who wants to nourish its child vegan, must watch out. Many nourishing scientists advise against it, because an increased risk for lack nutrition and thus for nourish-conditioned diseases exists. Therefore parents, who want to educate their children absolutely vegan, should call in a nourishing advisor. In two current studies German research teams examine at present by the way more exactly, how vegetarian, vegane and mixed nutrition affect infants as well as children and young people. First results are expected for the summer of this year.

In general, parents should ask themselves less the question “What can my child eat?”, but rather: “How often should I offer my son or daughter freshly prepared vegetables, how often should I offer Bratwurst with chips? Nevertheless, there are some firm recommendations. In the first year of life, for example, it is important to avoid added sugar. “If you manage to be very economical with it, children will be less likely to ask for sweets later,” says the ecotrophologist Büning-Fesel. As long as sweets are unknown, they will not be missed. However, if the child has developed a taste for sweets, it should be allowed to get something sweet once a day – quite deliberately after eating.

Another finding is that at least half to three-quarters of the diet should be plant-based. “We should no longer build meals around meat, but orient ourselves to vegetables.” And three portions of milk and milk products a day are sufficient. “That could be cheese slices, a portion of yoghurt or a glass of milk,” says Büning-Fesel.

It doesn’t all have to be fresh

Lots of vegetables, moderate fish, rarely unsaturated fatty acids – this sounds as if you should cook a lot yourself and freshly. Now not everyone has the time, not everyone the desire to stand in the kitchen and many adults simply could not cook very well. “If things have to go fast, finished products are not only ok, but a real help,” says Büning-Fesel, who herself uses frozen vegetables and recommends simply cutting a little bit of freshness into them. She always has a little seasonal fruit or vegetable in her house.

Red beans, chickpeas or other pulses from the can are also practical, “after all, nobody needs to soak the peas overnight”. On the other hand, she classifies “mercilessly processed things such as bag soups or canned vegetable soup” as problematic. It is also a difference whether a child experiences how a potato becomes a potato split baked in the oven and how it still tastes, or whether his parents pour frozen, uniform chips from the bag onto the baking tray. Those who wonder which finished product is suitable should at best take a look at the list of ingredients and ask themselves: Would I use this ingredient if I made it myself? For example, many bag soups contain stabilizers – which would not be present in the food when freshly cooked. Lactic acid and spices are also part of these additives, which can be found in many ready-to-eat sauces. And it’s worth taking a look at the sugar content, because ready meals often contain a multiple of what you would use to sweeten in the kitchen.

As soon as children realize that their parents can be blackmailed by eating, they have lost.

“Parents are responsible for offering children a healthy meal,” says Büning-Fesel. But ultimately it is up to the children to decide what to choose from them. That is why it is important to remain relaxed, not to focus on everything, but to live a healthy diet as a matter of course. This is especially true in stressful situations, when broccoli leads to tears or Brussels sprouts to a tantrum. Here, too, there are strategies that can be tried out. Coercion and promises are not included (see info box below). “As soon as children realize that their parents can be blackmailed by eating, they have lost,” says Büning-Fesel.

child nutrition

Screaming in the face of broccoli?

The broccoli stirs to tears, the carrots lead to screams?

Recommendation number 1: Keep calm. Because the more stressed you are, the more stressed the child will be. Patience and staying power maintain the joy of eating – which is easier said than done. In the following a few tips, which can help nevertheless.

First aid against stress while eating

  • Do not urge to eat and at best do not address the problem. If there are vegetables on a regular basis and parents enjoy eating with them, it becomes a matter of course. Yes, it can take time.
  • Do not immediately remove the rejected vegetables from the menu. Offer it again and again instead, for example with a large portion of your favourite vegetable.
  • Prepare the vegetables differently: puree them as a sauce or cut them into pieces, sometimes cooked, sometimes raw. At best, snip them bite-sized. Especially popular at a young age is everything that can be grasped.
  • If it is eaten, you will rejoice silently instead of saying: “Well, you see, cauliflower tastes very good to you!
  • Let your child join in. Growing, slicing and cooking vegetables together creates a relationship to food – and makes you proud when it’s on your plate and everyone tastes good.

Nutrition is indisputably important, but not the only decisive factor for a healthy life. “Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand in order to satisfy children’s need for activity and to balance energy intake and energy consumption,” says Büning-Fesel. Parents should therefore try not only to ensure that they enjoy a varied diet, but also to maintain the enjoyment of exercise that small children have by nature. Climbing, jumping, throwing, running, catching, somersaulting – there is not too much activity for healthy children as long as they decide for it themselves. At least 90 minutes of daily running, romping, jumping and climbing are recommended, from the age of five at least one hour of intensive romping around is recommended (see also Monthly Pediatrics: Graf et al., 2013). In between you can relax at the dining table.

Children often eat what adults show them. What is a healthy diet? And don’t many today think too much about it? ZEIT ONLINE devotes a special focus to this topic: “What can we still eat today?

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Christina Cherry
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