FREE SHAKER WITH PURCHASE! Ends March 25. No code needed.

Children's Nutrition

The Nutrition Myths Every Parent Must Stop Believing

Many nutrition myths are easy to believe because they’ve been around for decades. The idea of avoiding fat, for example, began in 1977 during the Fat-Free Food Boom. Not to mention, we live in an information-overloaded world, making it hard to know who’s right, who’s wrong and what the healthiest choices are for you and your family.

We’re busting some common nutrition myths so you can ensure your child enjoys a balanced and healthy diet.

More: 5 Parenting Hacks for Kids Nutrition

Sugar Causes Hyperactivity

Some studies have found a connection between added sugar and ADHD, like this 2015 report. Researchers found that the risk of hyperactivity and inattention increased by 14 percent for each sugar-sweetened beverage that was consumed. However, despite being a long-held belief that high sugar intake causes ADHD, the majority of current scientific research has yet to find concrete answers we can turn to as evidence.

As a parent, it’s most important to know the difference between natural and added sugars, avoiding the latter whenever possible. The American Heart Association (AHA) explains: “Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Added sugars are sugars and syrups put in foods during preparation or processing, or added at the table.” The problem with added sugars, according to the AHA, is that they contribute zero nutrients. Instead, they lead to weight gain or even obesity while reducing heart health.

These added sugars can be found in 74 percent of foods in the grocery store today, making it feel next to impossible to avoid them altogether. If you’re struggling to cut added sugar from your child’s diet, check out our blog post, Simple Ways to Reduce Your Child’s Daily Sugar Intake.

All Carbs Are Bad

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that carbohydrates are a macronutrient. Macronutrients provide the body with the energy it needs to function properly. What’s more, we need to get our macronutrients from food because the body can’t produce them on its own. As such, every person and child needs carbohydrates to stay fueled and healthy.

Carbohydrates become unhealthy for your body in two ways: overconsumption and poor food choices.

Overconsumption

According to the American Council on Exercise, when a person eats carbohydrates their blood sugar goes up. When this happens, the pancreas responds by secreting insulin. Insulin’s role is to take sugar from the bloodstream and bring it to the muscles that need it most. This is where carbohydrates can become bad for your health.

If your child is active, this sugar helps fuel the muscles they use to move around. However, for those living a sedentary lifestyle, insulin and blood sugar levels rise too high, and that excess sugar is then is taken to the fat cells. This happens because the inactive muscles are not accepting, and don’t need, more sugar.

This is just one reason why it’s important to stay active with your child and encourage them to participate in sports or simply engage in free play at home.

More: Indulge in Healthy Carbs With Our Healthy Recipes and Meal Ideas

Types of Carbs

All carbs are not creating equal. There are two main categories of carbohydrates that your child consumes: simple and complex. Rady Children’s Hospital explains:

  • Simple carbohydrates, also known as simple sugars, include fructose, glucose and lactose. All of these can be found in whole fruits. These foods cause a quick spike in blood sugar and are broken down easily in the body.
  • Complex carbohydrates, also known as starches, are found in starchy vegetables, grains, rice, breads and cereals. These break down slower in the body, therefore causing a steady flow of energy.

To avoid health issues with carbohydrates, Rady Children’s Hospital suggests that children older than two years old should eat a balanced diet, which includes 50 to 60 percent of calories from carbohydrates. While both simple and complex carbohydrates provide fuel for your child, focus on avoiding refined carbohydrates, which are found in high-sugar drinks and candy. To know which carbs are best, remember this suggestion from Rady Children’s Hospital:

“The [unhealthy] form of carbs (sugar and refined foods) are easy to get, come in large portions, taste good, and aren’t too filling. So people tend to eat more of them than needed. And some are not needed at all—foods like colas and candy provide no required nutrients; instead, they add only ‘empty calories.’”

Low Fat Foods Are Healthier

Low fat foods may seem like an obvious choice to keep your child’s fat intake in check. Quite the contrary, many low fat foods are supplemented with sugar to make up for the lost taste, according to a 2016 study.

The study explains that, in 1977, the McGovern Committee in the U.S. issued a report that said Americans needed to eat less fat and more complex carbohydrates. To maintain the same taste and texture, processed food manufacturers began adding more sugar to make up for the lost fat.

Instead of purchasing “low fat” foods in an attempt to make healthy choices, opt for whole foods, including fresh vegetables, healthy grains like rice and quinoa, and whole fruit. Avoid “low fat” dairy, baked goods, fats, oils and salad dressings, all of which were found to have significantly higher sugar contents than their full fat counterpart in the 2016 study.

Kids Need Whole Milk Beyond 2 Years of Age

Milk is full of calcium, healthy fats, and a range of vitamins, but only young children need full fat milk, according to Dr. William Sears. He explains that as toddlers grow, they no longer need the extra fat associated with whole milk, and that two percent provides the nutrients they need.

The question is, when do you shift to 2 percent milk? Dr. Sears suggests, “In my pediatric practice, I usually wait until two years of age to switch a toddler from whole milk to two percent milk. The reason why has more to do with toddlers' temperament rather than developmental needs: Most toddlers are picky eaters and need the extra fat for extra calories.”

As you wean your child off full fat milk, make the transition easier with Healthy Height Shake Mix, which comes in both chocolate and vanilla flavor choices. Add just two scoops to 4 ounces of 2 percent milk, shake and serve for kids ages 3 and older. For 2-year olds, we recommend just one scoop a day. Your child will get a healthy serving of much-needed nutrients and likely won’t notice the difference in taste from the whole milk he or she prefers.

More: 10 Ways to Make Sure Your Picky Eater is Getting Nutrients

Eating Fat Makes You Fat

Fat is another macronutrient that the body needs to function properly. Not only do fats help the body absorb nutrients, but they play a number of important roles within the body. Fats help:

  • Build cell membranes
  • Coat nerves
  • Energy
  • Blood clotting
  • Repair oxidative damage
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Promote healthy cholesterol levels

It’s imperative that you don’t avoid fats in your child’s diet. Instead, ensure your child gets his or her daily intake, according to AHA, which is:

  • 30 to 35 percent of calories from fat between 2 to 3 years of age
  • 25 to 35 percent of calories from fat between 4 to 18 years of age

See a breakdown of what this means for your child below:

Girls

Age

Average Calorie Needs

Recommendation (% of calories)

Calories from Fat

Fat (g)

2 years

1000

30-35%

300 - 350

33g - 39g

3 years

1200

25-35%

300 - 420

33g - 47g

4 years

1300

25-35%

325 - 455

36g - 51g

5 - 6 years

1400

25-35%

350 - 490

39g - 54g

7 years

1500

25-35%

375 - 525

42g - 58g

8 - 9 years

1600

25-35%

400 - 560

44g - 62g

10 years

1700

25-35%

425 - 595

47g - 66g


Boys

Age

Average Calorie Needs

Recommendation (% of calories)

Calories from Fat

Fat (g)

2 years

1000

30-35%

300 - 350

33g - 39g

3 years

1200

25-35%

300 - 420

33g - 47g

4 - 5 years

1400

25-35%

350 - 490

39g - 54g

6 - 7 years

1600

25-35%

400 - 560

44g - 62g

8 years

1700

25-35%

425 - 595

47g - 66g

9 - 10 years

1800

25-35%

450 - 630

50g - 70g

 

Fat Source Examples

Food

Amount

Fat (g)

Avocado

1 cup

21g

Almonds

1 oz

14g

Cheddar Cheese

1 oz

9 g

Egg

1 large egg

5g

Greek Yogurt (2%)

1 cup

4.5g

Salmon

3 oz

7g

Remember that the best fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, which are both unsaturated fats, explains Global Healing Center. As such, remember to eat saturated fats in moderation (red meat, dairy products, and baked goods), and avoid trans fats altogether, according to Global Healing Center:

“Unlike essential fats, trans fats are nothing more than empty calories and provide no nutritional benefits. Quite the opposite, in fact. A diet high in trans fats contributes to heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, pregnancy complications, allergies, obesity, vision disturbances in infants, and disorders of the nervous system.” Find a breakdown of the different types of fats below along with common sources of each.

Monounsaturated Fat

Monounsaturated fat is one of the two unsaturated fats. This type of fat is considered a healthy fat because it helps to reduce LDL, also referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Sources:

  • Canola oil
  • Olive oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Avocado
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seed

Polyunsaturated Fat

Polyunsaturated fat is another one of the two unsaturated fats. This type of fat, like monounsaturated fat, is considered a healthy fat because it helps to reduce LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol). Polyunsaturated fat includes the important omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are needed to keep your cardiovascular system healthy and omega-6 fatty acids help to regulate your child’s blood sugar and blood pressure.

Sources:

  • Fish and fish oils
  • Corn oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Pine nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds

Saturated Fat

Saturated fat is an unhealthy fat due to its negative effects on the cardiovascular system. Unlike unsaturated fats, saturated fat increases LDL cholesterol. Saturated fat should make up no more than 10 percent of daily calories, according to the FDA. While there is some research that suggests that plant-based saturated fat sources are less detrimental, it is still good practice to limit your child’s saturated fat intake.

Sources:

  • Meat
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Coconut Oil
  • Palm Oil

Trans Fat

Trans fat is is the least healthy fat in foods and can be naturally occurring or artificially created. Most commonly, trans fats come from partially hydrogenated oils. In 2015, the FDA determined that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). Like saturated fat, trans fat increases your LDL cholesterol and increases your risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Consuming trans fat should be avoided altogether.

Sources: While trans fats have been banned, there may still be some trans fat in the following foods:

  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Frozen pizza
  • Fast Foods
  • Coffee creamer
  • Frosting

Bust These Nutrition Myths in Your Home

Don’t let these nutrition myths stop your child from getting the nutrients they need. Instead, focus on following the RDA for your child’s age and gender to ensure a well-balanced diet. You can find a full list of the current dietary guidelines at Health.gov.

Helps Kids Grow
Healthy Height provides additional nutrition to support natural growth. Kids taking 1-2 servings a day and eating a well-balanced diet can see measurable growth in 6 months.
BUY NOW