If you are one of a growing number of grandparents acting as a caregiver for your grandchildren, you can help them to grow up strong and healthy by serving them beverages and food that is healthy. Avoid drinks that are sugary and serve them water and milk instead.
This advice is contained in guidelines drawn up by 1,000 Days, a non-profit organization working in the United States and around the world to help children grow up healthy in the first thousand days of their lives.Read More »
The growth has been so great that today one in every four Americans over the age of 18 is living in a household that consists of three or more generations. The total number of multigenerational families has leapt from seven in every 100 families in 2011 to 26 in every 100 families today.
These older caregivers have a lot on their plates, but 1,000 Days says it is there to help them. If these caregiving grandparents follow the guidelines, the organization says, they will help their grandchildren to grow up strong and healthy.
First thousand days
The first thousand days of a child’s life—infancy as well as toddlerhood—present a significant chance to build healthy habits that are long lasting, 1,000 Days says.
During those first thousand days the brain grows faster than at any other period in a person’s life, says Blythe Thomas, initiative director at 1,000 Days. Supporting the nutrition and health of children and families during this time of opportunity should be part of any program to promote their health, cut back on disparities, and equip future generations to lead improved lives, Thomas adds.
Among the resources available to grandparents as well as older adults who are caring for young children cited by 1,000 Days are:
The guidelines are based on research in the fields of biology, early childhood development, and neuroscience. The findings provide strong insights into the ways in which the environment, nutrition and relationships shape the time between a pregnancy and a child’s second birthday.
Here’s a summary of the dietary guidelines for all Americans, but which are considered to be highly relevant for grandparents acting as caregivers:
• At all life stages, follow a healthy pattern of eating. It never is too early or too late to eat healthfully.
• During the first six months of life feed infants on human milk only. Continue to do so through the first year of the infant’s life and even longer if possible or when human milk is not available. Add Vitamin D soon after the infant’s birth.
• When the infant is about six months old introduce foods that are nutrient-dense. Include foods that potentially could be allergenic with other foods that are complementary. Infants as well as toddlers should be encouraged to eat a variety of items from all groups of food. Include food that is rich in zinc and iron, especially for those infants who are being fed human milk.
• Reduce intake of beverages and foods high in salt, saturated fat, and added sugars. Saturated fat intake should be limited to less than 10 percent of calories daily, starting at age 2. Beverages and foods with added sugar should be avoided for those younger than 2. Above age 2, added sugars should be limited to less than 10 percent of calories daily.
• From a year to adulthood follow a healthy dietary program to meet nutrient requirements, aim at achieving a healthy weight, and lessen the risk of developing chronic disease.
• Meet the needs of food groups with beverages and foods that are nutrient-dense.
The premise is that nutritional requirements should be met mainly from foods and vegetables, which provide minerals, vitamins, and other components that promote health and contain little or no added saturated fat, salt, or sugar. Among the foods are: All types of vegetables; grains (at least half whole grain); fruits (especially fruit that is whole); dairy (including low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt or lactose-free products and beverages that are soy fortified); foods rich in proteins (including poultry, lean meats, seafood, nuts, and seeds); and oils (vegetable oils and food rich in oils, such as seafood and nuts).