At least 7 health problems have been proven to relate to diet. The first 4 problems occur in children as well as in adults. The last 3 occur primarily in adults.
This type of anemia usually occurs between 6 months and 2 years of age. Many children have no symptoms. If they do, the most common symptoms are fatigue, pale skin, becoming tired easily, and delayed motor development. Iron deficiency anemia can also cause behavioral symptoms such as restlessness, irritability, and poor attention span.
Over-eating and obesity has become the most common nutritional problem in the US. Obesity is also one of the most important contributing factors in heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
Tooth decay is more likely if a child has a lot of sweets in his diet. (Poor toothbrushing habits also contribute to tooth decay.)
Too little fiber in the diet can cause intestinal problems such as constipation, abdominal discomfort, appendicitis, gallstones, and some intestinal cancers.
Soft bones (osteoporosis) in later adulthood causes curvature of the spine and increased fractures (especially hip fractures). Most of the calcium that gives strong bone density is laid down between 9 and 18 years of age.
A lot of animal fat (especially cholesterol) in the diet contributes to coronary artery disease. This disease hardly exists in poor countries where the population subsists on low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets. It is also less common among vegetarians.
High blood pressure is mainly due to narrowed arteries from a high fat diet. An increased amount of salt or a decreased amount of calcium in the diet contributes to high blood pressure in some susceptible persons. Most people, however, get rid of extra salt through their kidneys and don't develop high blood pressure.
20% of a healthy diet should consist of milk, meat, and eggs, and 80% should be vegetables, fruits, and grains. (Fiber is found in grains, fruits, and vegetables.)
Breakfast is essential for children. Research has shown that missing breakfast interferes with alertness, attention span, thinking, and memory. If your child is on a weight loss diet, you should know that skipping breakfast usually doesn't lead to weight loss. All meals should contain fruits or vegetables, as well as grains. Meat or milk should be included in 2 of the meals.
Eating snacks is largely a habit. Snacks are unnecessary for good nutrition but harmless unless your child is overweight. If your child likes snacks (and most children do), encourage fruits, vegetables, and grains. Only allow 1 snack between meals and don't give it close to mealtime.
Americans eat excessive amounts of meat and dairy products. Although cholesterol is important for rapid growth, children over age 2 should consume it in moderation (not eliminate it).
To decrease the amount of fat in the diet, follow these guidelines:
On the other hand, some teenage girls may need to be reminded to consume adequate milk products (the equivalent of 3 glasses of milk) to lay down the bone mass required to prevent osteoporosis later in life.
Follow these guidelines:
Throughout our lives we need enough iron in our diets to prevent anemia. Everyone should know which foods are good sources of iron. Red meats, fish, poultry, and eggs are best. Having 2 servings per day of these foods will provide adequate iron. Although liver is a good source of iron, it has 16 times more cholesterol than beef and should be avoided. For young children who refuse meats in general, use some low-fat luncheon meats as a meat source. Iron is also found in iron-enriched cereals, beans of all types, peanut butter, raisins, prune juice, sweet potatoes, spinach, and egg yolks. The iron in these foods is better absorbed if the meal also contains fruit juice or meat.
Calcium is important for building strong bones, thereby preventing broken bones in children and soft bones (osteoporosis) in later adulthood. Most of the calcium that gives healthy bone density is laid down between ages 9 and 18 years. During this time calcium intake should be 1200 mg per day. A cup (8 ounces) of milk contains 300 mg, so optimal intake is 4 servings of milk products per day. One cup of milk is equal to 6 ounces of yogurt, 1.5 ounces of cheese (approximately 2 slices) or 1 cup of calcium-fortified fruit juice. Whole, 2%, 1% and skim milk all contain the same amount of calcium per cup. Children age 1 to 4 years need 2 servings of calcium per day and those 4 to 9 years need 3 servings per day. If a child of any age doesn't like the taste of milk, intake can easily be improved by serving flavored milk.
Eating less salt may reduce the risk of high blood pressure. The taste for salt is mainly a habit. Help infants develop healthy habits by not adding salt to their foods. Take the salt shaker off the dinner table. Use other herbs and spices instead of salt. Do not buy a lot of salty foods such as potato chips and pretzels.
Sweets are not harmful, but they should be eaten in moderation. Most humans are born with a "sweet tooth." They seek out and enjoy candy, soft drinks, and desserts. The main side effect of eating candy is tooth decay if the teeth are not brushed afterward. Eating food with a lot of sugar ("a sugar binge") can cause jitters, sweating, dizziness, sleepiness, and intense hunger 1 or 2 hours later. This temporary reaction is not harmful and can be relieved by eating some food. A love of sweets is not related to obesity (if the total calories per day are normal) or to hyperactivity.
Eating meat does not improve athletic performance. The best foods to eat before prolonged exercise are complex carbohydrates. These include bread, pasta (noodles), potatoes, and rice. These should be eaten 3 to 4 hours before the athletic event so they have passed out of the stomach.
Drinking water continues to be important up to the time of the activity and every 20 to 30 minutes during the activity.