Eating healthy is always important. But did you know that your age reveals what extra nutrients you need? Dietician Sanne Mouha explains how it works. “Each age category has different nutritional needs. However, that doesn’t mean you have to completely change your diet from one year to the next. The earlier you start eating healthy, the better it is for your body. Roughly speaking, our diet consists of three groups: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These three groups are important throughout our lives, just to different degrees,” says Mouha.
It is important that babies grow, that their brain development is good and that their organs and eyes work properly. Their diet must, therefore, support those three things. The basic diet of babies consists of breast or adapted bottle feeding. Regularity is very important here. Do you want to introduce solid food? Then getting used to taste is important. Babies still have to get to know all the flavours. Therefore, try to let them taste many different things. That way, your child is more likely to like it more later on. After all, babies need enough energy. So, low-fat food is not necessary at all and is even harmful. Adding salt or sugar to meals is not recommended.'
Toddlers can eat whatever is on the table, but adding salt or sugar is still not done. Children also need a lot of energy at this age, so snacks are important. Ideally, these snacks contain vitamins or calcium.
Vitamins can be found in fruit and vegetables, calcium in products based on (whole) cow’s milk. Toddlers can be picky and are usually more likely to opt for a cookie rather than a piece of fruit as a snack. Try to choose cookies with a lot of fibre and little added sugar as much as possible. Also give your child a maximum of three snacks daily and at fixed times. After all, eating continuously is bad for the teeth.’
From this age, your child goes to school full-time, which gives his or her life a completely different structure. Here, too, healthy habits are important. Teach your child to eat fruits and vegetables. Not only with the main meal, but also as a snack. Listen to your child as well. Has it eaten enough?
Then don’t push it to finish his or her plate. At this age, bottle and breastfeeding cease to exist. So make sure your child absorbs enough calcium, because it strengthens bones and bones. Whole grain products are also a healthy choice. However, children are usually not so keen on it. That’s why you should start with light brown bread, and then switch to the wholemeal version later.’
Primary schoolchildren learn new things every day and are also constantly playing and romping around. So they need a lot of energy in the form of carbohydrates. For breakfast, choose a wholemeal sandwich, oatmeal or unsweetened muesli. You can also put wholemeal sandwiches in the lunch box, which you can top with a vegetable spread, for example. Divide your child’s plate – and your own – into three parts in the evening. Fill half of your plates with vegetables, a quarter with potatoes or wholemeal pasta, rice, quinoa or couscous and the last quarter with meat, fish or a meat substitute such as tofu, quorn and seitan. As a parent, eat together with your children and introduce them to different colours, flavours and combination options of fruit and vegetables. In this way, they are encouraged to make healthy choices later in life.’
Teenagers get a serious growth spurt and eat more as a result. The basics remain the same: vegetables, fruits, carbohydrates and proteins. Take into account how much your teenager moves. There are teenagers who play five different sports, but there are also those who much prefer gaming. Based on this, you can see how much energy and fats your adolescent needs. Around the age of 18, the growth spurt is usually over and the appetite also decreases again.
However, adolescents often make unhealthy choices around this age. They are old enough to decide for themselves what to eat and also eat more outside the home.
There’s nothing wrong with a pack of fries or pizza every now and then, as long as they usually opt for healthy food. In addition, adolescents acquire a more sedentary lifestyle around this age. Hours of playing outside are exchanged for hours in front of the computer or watching Netflix. Also, adolescents at the age of 18 no longer grow as fast as they did at the age of fourteen. If they continue to eat a lot and eat unhealthily, they will gain weight.’
Not much changes between the ages of 18 and 40. Again, it is important to eat enough vegetables, fruit and whole grain products and to ensure regularity. In addition, try to get enough protein, but don’t overdo it with meat and fish. So regularly choose eggs, legumes, milk or soy products and meat substitutes. Drinking enough water daily and avoiding soft drinks is also important. And try to exercise every day.’
From the age of 40, your muscle mass decreases and your metabolism drops. No matter how you look at it, you get older and so does your body. From the age of 45, your bones also become more brittle. This process is accelerated by menopause. A lot of people notice at this age that they are gaining weight, while they are doing nothing different than they did a few years ago. That’s why it’s important to cut down on sugars and fats and pay attention to a regular and healthy diet, combined with an active lifestyle.’
The typical age-related ailments are emerging. For example, from this age you have an increased risk of heart problems and high cholesterol. Your metabolism also drops further and your thirst decreases, so you drink less. So try to pay extra attention to that and drink at least one and a half litres of water a day. From the age of 80, you also get a lot less hungry, because your body’s need to keep all the processes going is no longer so great.’
There are, of course, foods that are good for our body at every stage of life. Sanne Mouha: “It may sound boring, but if you make healthy choices, you will reap the benefits for the rest of your life. So drink water instead of soda. Choose fruit and vegetables and avoid ultra-processed foods.
Think of candy or cereal with chocolate and/or sugar. Excessive added sugar is always a bad idea. Fish and meat are also part of a healthy lifestyle, but don’t overdo it.
Try to eat a maximum of 500 grammes of red or processed meat per week. Also choose a meat substitute. Nowadays there is so much choice that even the biggest meat lovers will find something to their liking.
A small change with a big impact: leave the salt shaker.
The content first appeared in The Content Exchange