At age 5, your child has a concept of their body and the world around them.
They are already watching TV and understanding the twisted beauty standard of our world. Your child may have a certain body type that makes them above average weight. You must encourage them to be physically active to strengthen muscles and be healthy - and not to be thin. It’s important that as parents you accept your child’s body type and help them to feel comfortable with it.
If parents put an inappropriate emphasis on body weight alone, the child may have an unhealthy body perception which could develop into an eating disorder. The estimation today is that 70-80% of women believe they are overweight whether they truly are or are not. Researchers point to a connection between an unhealthy body perception and today's obesity epidemic. Lots of children, both boys and girls, can develop depression when they realize they will never look like the models and actors they see on TV. Help your children understand where true beauty lies. Be the role model that will allow them to feel good about who they are. That way, you will raise healthy, happy and balanced children.
So what should children this age be eating?
It’s important to have a variety that includes all major food groups (carbohydrates, protein and fat). When it comes to nutrition, it’s important to remember a few things:
Nutritional fibers are important in preventing constipation in children as well as adults. Since preferences for tastes formalize at a young age, it’s even more important for young children at this age to get used to eating foods that are rich in fiber (fruit and vegetables). In adults, it has been proven that these foods can prevent different diseases of the bowel.
Protein is critical for children of every age. Meat, fish and cheese are all rich in protein, as are lagoons such as lentils, nuts and peas. Remember that red meat isn’t only rich in protein but also in cholesterol and fat which is why you should choose a low-fat meat.
Fat is an important part of any diet and it would be impossible to live without it! Keeping that in mind, a diet that is rich in fat (especially trans fat) can be dangerous and cause cardiovascular disease later in life. Recommendations today are that fat should be less than 30% of your child’s daily diet, and less than a third of that should be composed of trans fat.
You should try and keep sugar consumption to a minimum. Sugar has a high caloric value, but dieticians refer to it as “empty calories” because there is almost no additional nutritional value. Children usually eat sugar instead of better options. When children drink sweet drinks there’s less room left for food that’s truly healthy for them.
Salt adds flavor to food, but a connection has been found between a high concentration of salt and hypertension in certain populations. Hypertension can cause heart disease and strokes.
It’s important to understand that the salty flavor is an acquired taste. Try giving your kids food that is low in salt. Add less salt when preparing food and limit the use of the salt shaker at the table. Processed foods have a high concentration of salt - keep that in mind while preparing food for your children.
Keep track of the amount of food your children eat. Lots of parents give their children an amount of food that is equal to what they eat themselves, putting their children in the dilemma of eating the whole amount of food or leaving food on their plate. Active children usually know to eat the amount of food their bodies need, but you can’t always count on that. You can weigh your child, but in most cases, it isn’t necessary to count the calories your child is eating since your child will be automatically monitoring it themselves. Remember the amount of food your child eats can change, even from one day to another, depending on the type of activity your child did the same day.
Last updated: May 2017
Authors - Judah Freedman BA MED, Dr. Yair Sadaka MD PhD, paediatrician, Pediatric neurologist