False beliefs about feeding children

Parents and teachers need to be taught to select, filter, and be critical of nutrition information. The advances of the last decades have opened up endless possibilities in terms of food, but that does not mean that the most appropriate options are chosen.

The cultural, technological and economic changes that have taken place in recent decades have inevitably influenced our food choices: we have more availability and variety of food, but we do not always opt for the most suitable ones.

It does not help to live obsessed or the absence of truthful information; all this distorts our concept of what "eating healthy" is and maintains a good number of false beliefs or myths about food.

Also in relation to children's nutrition, such as that purees feed better, that children need food supplements or that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

“Any father or mother wants the best for their child and tries to give it to them. The problem is knowing how to distinguish what is really best when we live in an era marked by "infoxication", explains Griselda Herrero, dietitian-nutritionist and author of Healthy eating for great children (AMAT Editorial).

The dietitian-nutritionist believes that parents and educators must be taught to filter, select and be critical of information.

Below we dismantle a series of very common false beliefs in relation to child nutrition that can cause confusion among families.

1. The child who does not eat "nothing"

For Griselda Herrero, the main myth is that if the child "does not eat" they will not grow and, therefore, they must be given a vitamin supplement, a food supplement or a fortified food.

“Many times the food industry plays with this fear so that we buy certain products. However, there does not have to be any deficit because all nutritional needs are covered if the diet is adequate and healthy and, if the child is happy, responds to stimuli and is active, there is no reason to worry”.

Many parents continue to fear that the amount of food their children eat is not "enough", which inevitably leads to the idea that they should supplement the diet.

Or almost worse, offer more appetizing foods for children, even if they are unhealthy, as long as they eat.

2. Never force a child to eat

Related to the above, it also happens that for many families the concern for that "does not eat anything" leads them to think that they should force the child to eat, in an obligation that is often disguised as blackmail or insistence.

"When we force to eat we are generating rejection in the child for the food, which can lead to various types of alterations or, at least, in bad relationships with food," points out Griselda Herrero.

It is very important that the child choose, decide and participate in such a way that they are held responsible and involved in their diet, but never doing something they do not want.

3. Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day

Many babies and children refuse to eat breakfast as soon as they get up, something that clashes head-on with the long-held idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Dietitians-nutritionists such as María Manera Bassols or Julio Basulto emphasize that this meal is not the main meal unless it is the only one to be eaten throughout the day.

"It's better not to eat anything for breakfast than to have an unhealthy breakfast since you can have a whole wheat sandwich and a piece of fruit at school 90 or 120 minutes later."

And he added that it happens that many times we think that the child "does not eat breakfast" when in reality it is that "he eats breakfast in two meals or has breakfast in a delayed manner, very shortly after getting up".

4. Purees and porridges do not feed them better

In many pediatric practices, complicated tables still circulate with the amounts of processed foods in the form of puree or porridge that babies should eat when they start complementary feeding; feeding that should not be offered before six months.

For Griselda Herrero, these preparations are not only not necessary, but she believes that Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) or baby-guided feeding is the most appropriate option to respect the child's feelings of hunger and satiety, and let him choose what to eat. , how much and when to eat because, he says, "in the end, only he knows what he really needs."

"If we prepare a puree for a one-year-old child and we put, for example, half a banana, half a pear and half an apple, we should think about whether all of this could fit in the stomach of such a small baby"

On the other hand, Herrero explains that when they are given this type of preparation, we not only prevent them from handling, smelling, playing and savoring food, but we also increase the caloric value that we give them in a single intake.

5. There is no good or bad breast milk

"Breast milk is always good, the fact that it can be "bad" is an invention of the companies that sell artificial milk," says Griselda Herrero, who explains that the synthesis of breast milk depends on the baby's suction and contains all the nutrients that the child needs for its development and growth.

“We could consider it the only “superfood” or essential food, the most complete and the one with the most benefits. Since we have it, let's not destroy it by inventing fallacies”, he claims.

6. Salt and sugar are not necessary

With the idea that children eat "more" and "better" certain foods, the idea circulates that salt and sugar are essential.

It happens, according to Griselda Herrero, that salt, fat and sugar make food more palatable (that is, that it is pleasant to put it in our mouths) and, therefore, we want to eat more.

However, he ensures that if we do not interfere with it, children's innate ability to prefer sweet foods is lost over time, so the less we give them, the better.

“It is advisable to always avoid these substances, especially before the year. From then on, salt can be used moderately, avoiding the consumption of ultra-processed foods, as established by the WHO”, explains Griselda.

7. The fruit, better whole

The juice is still seen as an alternative to the whole piece, and this would be the worst option. “In a juice, the fiber is lost and the natural sugars present in the fruit are absorbed very quickly, so they would act as if it were table sugar. Fiber has the ability to slow down this absorption and therefore its effect on metabolism is different,” he points out.

A fruit porridge would maintain the fiber but insist again that we would be offering a great nutritional and energy density in very small quantities, so the best option is always the whole fruit.

8. Nuts do not cause allergies at an early age

Often, it is said that it is advisable to avoid the consumption of nuts under the belief that they cause allergies. However, the Generalitat de Catalunya guide on infant feeding (from 0 to 3 years old), published in 2016, includes the consumption of ground or crushed nuts from the age of six months, and recommends not offering such whole foods, at same as popcorn, whole grapes, apple or raw carrot up to three years to reduce the risk of choking.

According to Griselda Herrero, incorporating these foods from the beginning of complementary feeding could even be beneficial. It is suggested by scientists from Kings College in the LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) study in the case of peanuts.

9. Vegetarian or vegan diets in childhood are not dangerous

The American Academy of Nutrition, which brings together more than 100,000 professionals, stated in a document published in 2003, after an exhaustive review of the available literature, that "adequately planned vegetarian diets, including totally vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthy and nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence, as well as for athletes.

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