10 food myths for parents of preschoolers

Get the facts about 10 common myth about kids & nutrition to feed your kids properly to keep them fit and healthy

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To help set the record straight about health and nutrition myths, NickJr.com turned to Lisa Sasson, M.S., R.D., clinical assistant professor at the New York University Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health. Here's the truth behind 10 common misconceptions.
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Myth #1

Sugary foods make kids hyperactive.

FALSE
  • Studies have consistently found no relationship between sugar and hyperactivity.
  • Children may become rowdy and uncontrollable due to lack of sleep, poor diets, inadequate iron in their diet, excessive television or computer games, too much caffeine, too little physical activity, and general excitement (such as at a birthday party).

    Parent Tip: Try healthy snacks that give kids energy and nutrients, like low-fat popcorn, cheese and crackers, peanut butter or soy butter on whole-wheat crackers, or bean dip and crackers.
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    Myth #2

    Young children are more finicky than older kids.

    FALSE
  • Surprisingly, it is easier to encourage young children to try new foods than older kids.
  • Just keep in mind that children learn new food preferences through repeat exposure, and it could take 8 to 10 tries.
  • If your child doesn't like a food when he or she tries it for the first time, don't give up.

    Parent Tip: Use cookie cutters to make eating vegetables more fun. Or make funny faces or designs on plates with a new vegetable, such as making corn or peas into a smiley face.
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    Myth #3

    Preschoolers should drink whole milk.

    FALSE
  • Whole milk gives children under 2 increased energy and the fat they need for brain development. But after age 2, children can have low-fat milk because their diet is more varied and they get fats from other foods.

    Parent Tip: Be sure your child is eating from all the major food groups and include nuts, nut butters, avocados, and fish in their diet.
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    Myth #4

    My preschooler will grow out of her food allergy.

    FALSE
  • Luckily, by the age of 3, most young children do outgrow many common food allergies--like milk, soy, and eggs--but they may not outgrow other allergies, such as peanuts or other nuts.
  • Always discuss your child's allergy with your pediatrician.

    Parent Tip: Don't introduce two new foods on the same day. If your child has no reaction to a new food after eating it for a few days, then you can include it in your child's diet and offer another new food.
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    Myth #5

    Fruit drinks have vitamins and minerals, so preschoolers can drink all they want.

    FALSE
  • Although many fruit drinks have added vitamins and minerals, they also contain a lot of calories, sugar (or other sweeteners), and they lack fiber.
  • The best way to get vitamins and minerals in your child's diet is with whole fruits and vegetables.
  • Associating drinking with sweet beverages can become a very unhealthy habit for kids.
  • The healthiest beverages for kids are water, low-fat milk, and limited amounts of 100% fruit.

    Parent Tip: Cut juice's calories and sugar by watering it down (a 50:50 ratio), use seltzer for a fizzy treat, or freeze juice in ice-cube trays and add to water.
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    Myth #6

    To get enough iron, my preschooler needs red meat a few times a week.

    FALSE
  • Iron is critical nutrient for your child's growth and development, and red meat is an excellent source, but your child can get adequate iron from many other foods: eggs, fish, poultry, beans, whole-grain or enriched cereal, bread, and dried fruit.

    Parent Tip: Don't let kids fill up on milk before eating. Although an excellent source of many nutrients, milk does not contain iron, and the calcium and phosphorus in milk can impair iron absorption.
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    Myth #7

    Cavities from sweets don't matter, because preschoolers lose their teeth anyway.

    FALSE
  • Cavities can cause baby teeth to rot and fall out, which may affect the placement of your child's permanent teeth. And because baby teeth have thinner enamel than permanent teeth, they are even more prone to cavities.
  • Your child's permanent teeth begin to mineralize (harden) as early as the first year of life, so good oral hygiene and a healthy diet are essential for healthy permanent teeth to develop.

    Parent Tip: To help prevent cavities, never put your child to sleep with a bottle of juice or milk, brush your child's teeth after meals, have your child drink water after eating sweets, avoid sweet snacks, use fluoride toothpaste, and visit the dentist regularly.
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    Myth #8

    Children should be taught to clean their plates.

    FALSE
  • Young children usually stop eating when they feel full, and parents shouldn't override these natural eating cues.
  • Encouraging children to eat more than they want can lead to negative eating behaviors in later years.
  • Provide healthy, nutritious meals and snacks, but allow your child to stop eating when satisfied.

    Parent Tip: Adult-size portions can overwhelm a child, so try serving your child half of an adult-sized portion or (print a preschooler portion chart). Serve nutritious foods at the beginning of the meal and be sure your child doesn't fill up with beverages.
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    Myth #9

    An overweight preschooler needs to be on a diet.

    FALSE
  • Overweight preschoolers should not be on diets. (But they should also be fed like preschoolers and not like teenagers!)
  • If your child is overweight, provide him or her with healthy, well-balanced meals and snacks, limit calorically dense foods, and provide lots of opportunities for physical activity.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines state that the goal for all children ages 2 to 7 should be weight maintenance, not weight loss.

    Parent Tip: Portion out foods before serving. Serve fresh salads, vegetables, and soups first, so your family fills up on these. Serve everyone in the family the same healthy meals and snacks: you never want an overweight child to feel denied any foods others in the family can eat.
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    Myth #10

    Children have different tastes from adults and need kid-type foods.

    FALSE
  • Children have no predetermined "tastes," but this is the time when they are developing preferences for certain foods. If your child is offered mostly sweet, salty, bland, or fatty foods, then he or she will grow up with a taste for those foods.

    Parent Tip: Introduce your child to different foods, tastes, and textures early, and you'll increase the variety and nutrients in your child's diet and start them off in life with positive eating habits.
  • Important Disclaimer: This information is not meant as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a doctor with questions about your or your child's condition. NickJr.com does not recommend or endorse specific tests, products, procedures, opinions, or other information provided by any sponsors or other third parties. Please also see Terms of Use.
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